Driver to face trial in Ware's death
Judge rules there's enough evidence for felony vehicular manslaughter charge
Now that a judge has ruled there is enough evidence to proceed with a trial of Matthew Pumar, the driver accused of hitting and killing local man last June, there are two directions the case might take.
The 22-year-old Pumar stands accused of felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence in the death of well-known local man William Ware. He could plead guilty, possibly accepting some form of plea bargain for admitting guilt. Or, he may continue to fight the charge, which carries a maximum penalty of six years in prison.
At the conclusion of the preliminary hearing on Jan. 3, Judge Thang Nguyen Barret ordered Pumar to return to court on Jan. 14 for arraignment. At that point, his charges will be officially presented to him and he will have the opportunity to enter a plea, though he could wait to do so until a later date.
After hearing multiple witnesses, called by Deputy District Attorney Duffy Magilligan, Judge Thang Nguyen Barrett ruled that sufficient evidence had been presented to warrant a jury trial.
During the hearing's closing arguments, Pumar's defense lawyer, Dennis Smith, argued that the Mountain View resident had not been negligent in the June 21 accident, in which he allegedly ran a red light at the intersection of California Street and Escuela Avenue. Smith pointed to evidence presented earlier in the day by a traffic accident expert who had estimated that Pumar was traveling somewhere between 46 mph and 62 mph when he struck Ware.
Magilligan argued, however, that before Ware was struck, Pumar had already driven up over a curb, had two wheels ripped from his vehicle, and plowed through a traffic sign post — suggesting that his vehicle must have slowed significantly before hitting Ware. The posted speed limit at the intersection is 35 mph.
Earlier in the preliminary hearing, Smith made much of a utility van that Pumar allegedly swerved to avoid before losing control of his car, running up on the sidewalk and striking Ware.
Smith repeatedly asked witnesses whether the van, which was waiting to make a left turn at the time of the accident, had run a red light. The accident occurred at around 9:30 a.m., while Pumar was on his way from the gym to his job.
Several of Ware's family members attending the hearing seemed emotionally drained after the judge's ruling. But Ware's brother, Jim, said he was pleased to see that the case would go to trial. "It was relieving to hear that the judge saw the charges the way the DA did," he said.
Pumar and his family had no comment for the media. They also appeared emotionally distraught. At the conclusion of an earlier session of the hearing, Smith told the Voice that the "whole (Pumar) family has expressed to me the greatest sympathy for Mr. Ware. It's been a tragedy for everybody."
Ware, who was well-known around Mountain View, was waiting for a bus in the 1800 block of California Street when he was killed.
Pumar remained on the scene of the accident and cooperated with police and investigators. He was arrested on July 10 after the investigation was completed. He immediately posted $100,000 bail and was released.
The court will take up the case again on Jan. 14 at 1:30 p.m. in Department 84 at the Palo Alto Courthouse.