Former party bus owner pleads not guilty to manslaughter charges

May 17, 2013 1:10:58 PM PDT
The former owner of a Santa Cruz party bus company pleaded not guilty today in Santa Clara County Superior Court to vehicular and voluntary manslaughter charges for the death of a woman who fell out of a vehicle he owned on state Highway 17 near Los Gatos last year.

Jon Reno St. James, 56, gray-haired and wearing glasses, offered the plea during his arraignment on the charges at the Hall of Justice in San Jose this morning.

Judge Rise Jones Pichon ordered a jury trial on the charges to begin on July 1 and set a hearing for May 22 to consider St. James' request to be released or have his bail reduced.

St. James was indicted May 3 by a grand jury that concluded he was grossly negligent in maintaining a party bus limousine that two women fell out of during a trip from Mountain View to Santa Cruz on July 27, 2012.

Natasha Noland, 25, was killed when she plunged out of the vehicle onto Highway 17 near Los Gatos during a fight with a 20-year-old woman, who also fell out but survived.

St. James, through his attorney, asked Pichon to release him on his own recognizance, arguing that he was not in the vehicle at the time of the accident, was no longer in the bus business and posed no threat to the community.

Deputy District Attorney Matt Braker opposed St. James' request, saying that the defendant had not yet filed a required formal request for a hearing to reduce his bail, which is currently set at $100,000.


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