By Dave Schwab
A transient with a history of driving drunk pleaded not guilty Friday to charge of felony reckless driving causing injury for allegedly steering a car onto a La Jolla sidewalk, seriously injuring three teenagers, then crashing into an eatery.
Ronald Troyer, 66, was arraigned before Judge David Szumowski in San Diego Superior Court in connection with the crash that Aug. 15 about 7 p.m. in the 5500 block of La Jolla Boulevard. Bail was set at $250,000.
Three La Jolla teens - Alani Aguerre, Ian Brininstool and Myles Polger - were seriously injured in the crash after being struck in front of Cass Street Cafe. They were walking north on the sidewalk when Troyer, driving southbound in a large Chrysler sedan, allegedly lost control and drove up on the sidewalk. The vehicle struck the trio and a SDG&E electrical box and then traveled 60-plus feet through the parking lot and crashing through the front window into the cafe. Alani Aguerre was pinned under the car for a time and two patrons having dinner also sustained minor injuries when they were struck.
Friends and supporters have been asked to stop by the restaurant on Saturday to sign poster-sized cards for the teens. Brininstool was released from the hospital this week, but his two friends remain hospitalized awaiting additional surgery.
An ad hoc group identified as Bird Rock Against Drunk Drivers (B-RADD) is organizing the event.
At Friday's hearing, Traylor was charged with one felony count of reckless driving causing injury, and two allegations that he caused great bodily injury to two other people, said Steve Walker, spokesman for the District Attorney.
"When you add up all the possible exposure with all of those charges, Troyer could serve up to 9 years in state prison if convicted," said Walker.
Deputy District Attorney David Uyar, who is assigned to the case, said Troyer has a criminal history which includes misdemeanor vehicle code violations.
A readiness conference has been set for 8:15 a.m. Aug. 31 in Department 30 of Superior Court. A preliminary hearing has also been set for Sept. 2 in Deptartment 11.
"That's when the judge will hear evidence and decide whether there's enough to show he committed the crime and be bound over for a jury trial," said Walker.
According to Department of Vehicle Records, Troyer was convicted twice in 2005 for driving under the influence. The defendant also has convictions in 2006, 2007 and 2008 for driving with a suspended license, according to DMV records.
Troyer does not have a valid driver's license, and his license has been suspended seven times since 2004, according to the records.
Walker said Troyer has been assigned a public defender.
Brininstool has since been released from the hospital, but Aguerre and Polger remain hospitalized awaiting additional surgery. Polger's father, Lorne, said his son was scheduled for a third surgery today. Santiago Aguerre said his 13-year-old daughter Alani, the most severely injured of the three teens, had a fourth surgery scheduled Saturday to repair several broken bones in her pelvis, after having had surgery to repair her broken left arm earlier this week. She is in the intensive care unit.
After the crash, the prosecutor said Troyer gathered some of his belongings and started to walk away from the crash scene but was detained by witnesses.
"He's obviously driving on a suspended license," the prosecutor told reporters outside court. "He was able to obtain the keys to a car. He was able to get behind the wheel of a car. He's been told numerous times that this is not to happen ... but he's not heeding those warnings."
Uyar said Troyer's blood was drawn following the crash, but the results are pending.
"His conduct with the officers did cause the officers suspicions that there was something on board, and so that's why the officers took a sample of the defendant's blood," the prosecutor said.
City News Service contributed to this report.