Stabbing case going to jury
Jurors begin deciding today whether Robert A. Richards tried to kill a sheriff’s deputy in a Penn Valley parking lot more than a year ago, or if he merely panicked trying to avoid arrest.
In closing arguments started Wednesday, Assistant Nevada County District Attorney Ron Wolfson told jurors that hate was Richards’ motive and an unfolded pocket knife demonstrated premeditation when he stabbed Deputy James Bennett in the neck.
“When he opened that knife, he exhibited … what he wanted to do to Deputy Bennett,” Wolfson said.
The stabbing occurred the night of June 17, 2001. Bennett was patrolling businesses along Penn Valley Drive because of recent vandalism complaints when he spotted a man seated in front of the closed Daybreak Cafe.
Upon questioning, Richards gave Bennett a false name. But the men knew each other from a 2000 case which ended in a felony conviction for Richards. Richards ran after Bennett radioed dispatchers for a warrant check.
Bennett tackled Richards and got him in a choke hold and then Richards stabbed the deputy in the back of the neck, Wolfson said. A second chase ensued, and Richards was pepper-sprayed and handcuffed after making false claims he had a gun. A handgun was later found in Bennett’s glove compartment, but it didn’t work.
Wolfson argued that Richards targeted the neck because he wanted to kill Bennett because he hated the officer from the earlier case.
A single jab with the 21/2 inch blade, Wolfson added, came close to striking Bennett’s spinal cord and an artery.
Court-appointed defense lawyer Glenn Kottcamp countered that Richards wasn’t aiming for the neck, but was trying to break free because he was drunk, in a choke hold, and didn’t want to go to jail.
“When you lose oxygen to the brain (from a choke hold), suddenly the brain’s not thinking too clear,” Kottcamp said.
He also disputed whether there was any lingering resentment from the prior case and claimed the two men had chatted awhile before the chase.
“If there was hatred on that day by Mr. Richards toward Deputy Bennett then that type of conduct wouldn’t have been taking place,” he said.
Kottcamp claimed Bennett, who had been an officer about a year, made a rookie mistake by not announcing Richards was under arrest while giving chase.
In court Wednesday, Richards occasionally turned and made eye contact with Bennett, who was seated behind the prosecution table.
Kottcamp concludes his argument this morning. Deliberations are expected to begin after a Wolfson rebuttal.
Richards, 39, is charged with attempted murder of an officer, assault with a deadly weapon on an officer, resisting arrest with threat or violence, and firearm possession by a felon.
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