Teen sent to prison for hitting boy with car

January 28, 2009 1:40:57 PM PST
A 19-year-old Oakland man was sentenced today to six years in state prison for striking a 13-year-old circus performer with his car and dragging him 300 feet after he thought the youth hit his vehicle with a rock.

Cesar Garcia faced attempted murder charges for the September 2007 incident that left Charles Stevison badly injured and has forced him to undergo 37 medical procedures, including three skin grafts.

But prosecutor Jimmie Wilson said today that jurors on Dec. 8 convicted Garcia of the lesser crime of assault with a deadly weapon, plus a clause of inflicting great bodily injury, because they weren't convinced that Garcia wanted to kill Stevison.

However, Wilson said jurors were convinced Garcia intended to injure him.

According to Oakland police, Garcia was driving with his girlfriend at about 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 11, 2007, when a rock struck his 1986 Chevrolet Caprice in the 9800 block of Walnut Street in Oakland.

Stevison, who is now 15 and is a ninth-grader at a local alternative school, testified that he threw a rock at a bus and a friend threw the rock that hit Garcia's car.

Wilson said Garcia and his girlfriend drove off but then returned to confront the youths, who ran off in opposite directions.

Garcia wound up chasing Stevison with his car and drove up on the sidewalk, hitting and knocking down a pole the teen was standing behind, then striking him and dragging him under the car for about 300 feet until Garcia hit a parked car and backed up, Wilson said.

Stevison was able to break free at that point, according to Wilson.

Garcia and his girlfriend abandoned the car, but Garcia was arrested about 45 minutes later when he returned to the scene to change his tire, Wilson said.

Garcia testified that the incident was an accident but jurors said they didn't believe him, Wilson said.

Garcia also said he didn't know that Stevison was under his car, but Wilson said "that's hard to believe."

Stevison was upbeat after the sentencing hearing today and said he's back with the Prescott Circus Theater and is able to do the same stunts he did previously, such as juggling, riding a unicycle and walking on stilts.

He said he's also able to play football and plays on the defensive line as well as participating as running back and wide receiver.

However, Stevison has permanent scars on his left arm and on his chest and isn't able to open and close his left hand. He will have surgery soon to try to correct that problem.

Stevison said he's proud he has been able to recover from his injuries because "I feel like I've accomplished a lot and have been able to get through it."

Garcia's lawyer, Robert Byers, said the incident was a "tragic" accident.

Byers said Garcia "feels very badly about Charles' injuries."

Byers said Alameda County Superior Court Judge Allen Hymer, who sentenced Garcia, said the crime was mitigated by the fact that Garcia received many letters of support and didn't have a previous criminal record.

Byers said Garcia worked in city of Oakland programs and also was active in the hip-hop music world.