Meghan Zato was a first-year law student at UC Hastings College of Law in the fall of 2013. On October 4th, she'd gone out on the town to take part in Oakland's First Friday art festivities. She ended up at a bar, and later behind the wheel of her car. Now she is in court where she faces four felonies related to a DUI hit and run accident that severely injured a pedestrian.
James Roda, a 25-year-old Oakland resident was also out that evening, and left the Ruby Room shortly after Zato. As he was crossing 14th Street, he was struck by a turbo diesel Mercedes-Benz, in front of the Oakland Public Library. Now Roda is legally blind, and suffers from seizures and memory problems as a result of the accident.
However, this case was more complicated than a simple hit and run DUI. When Zato left the bar, she allegedly came across a group of vandals tagging the library with spray paint. She confronted them, and they punched her, stole her phone and spray painted her car. When she got behind the wheel of her car, she was apparently trying to get away but mistakenly hit Roda instead. According to her attorney, she hurriedly left the scene because it wasn't safe: not only had Zato already be attacked, but the vandals had threatened to kill her.
The Alameda County deputy district attorney Adam Maldonado instead tried to paint a picture of Zato as a drunk who was bothering people inside and out of the bar. Surveillance video shows Zato in the bar interrupting people playing pool by picking up the ball and dropping it into the pocket. She was eventually escorted out of the bar by the bouncer, who said she was insulting other patrons that evening.
Prosecutors claimed that by the time Zato got into her car, she was no longer in danger from the young vandals. Instead, she made an illegal U-turn, and sped down the street into Roda. She left the scene of the accident, and was followed by another bar patron, until she was arrested. Zato's blood alcohol content (BAC) was tested at 0.16%, twice the legal limit.
Zato faces felony charges for assault with a deadly weapon causing great bodily injury, driving under the influence, and hit and run. Felony hit and run and the assault charge include penalties of up to four years in state prison. A DUI that results in bodily injury could also result in a prison sentence of up to four years, including all the additional penalties that go along with a conviction for a DUI. Zato's attorney will ask for an acquittal on all charges.
At Gorelick Law Offices, attorney Lynn Gorelick has dedicated her legal career to defending people facing DUI and other criminal charges in the East Bay. With more than 30 years of experience, Lynn Gorelick understands the law, and will make sure you get the justice you deserve. If you are facing a DUI, or other criminal charges, contact the local East Bay DUI defense attorney who understands that you do not have to plead guilty just because you were arrested.