News

DA explains decision not to file charges in Tri-Valley fight case

Investigation concludes injured man struck first; wife disagrees

Evidence indicates that the Pleasanton man found injured and unconscious outside his home on Middleton Place last September was the aggressor in the altercation, according to Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley.

O'Malley, in an interview with the Pleasanton Weekly, discussed the circumstances around the injuries sustained by David Lamont and why her office opted not to prosecute the teens at the scene.

"If the case is not legally provable, then it would be improper for the prosecutor to file charges," O'Malley said.

Lamont was struck outside his home early Sept. 21 after confronting teens about making noise in the quiet cul-de-sac where he lived. He was found lying in the street, bleeding and comatose, when he didn't return inside following the altercation. Police said four teens were cooperating during the investigation, and that they had identified one, an 18-year old from outside the area, as a "person of interest."

On Feb. 7, police announced that the case had been closed and no charges would be filed. The DA said her office worked closely with Pleasanton police before deciding not to pursue a criminal charge.

"The evidence shows that Mr. Lamont confronted the young men who were across the street or in the area of his house. The evidence also shows that Mr Lamont headbutted or hit the young man in the face, and the injuries that the young man received are consistent with that," O'Malley said. "And the evidence also tells us that in response to being hit, the young man hit Mr. Lamont back in the face and he fell down. The medical findings are consistent with Mr. Lamont hitting his head on the ground."

Lamont's wife, Agnes, told the Pleasanton Weekly that she disagreed with the conclusions made by the DA's Office.

"We have never been contacted by the DA's office," Agnes Lamont said. "However, given what I heard that night, I cannot give credence to claims of self-defense made several days after the incident by the four young people who drove off leaving David critically injured and unconscious."

O'Malley said under California's "stand your ground" law, a person who is attacked is permitted to use similar force in response.

"In California, the law does not require a person to retreat from an attack," she said. "That person who's attacked has the right to, as they call it, stand his ground or her ground and defend himself or herself."

She said only one person at the scene Sept. 21 was involved in the altercation with Lamont, and evidence showed that person acted to protect himself.

"It was clear to us and I believe it was also clear to the police, because of this law of self-defense, and (that) there's no evidence we have to overcome that law of self-defense in this particular case," O'Malley said.

Agnes Lamont said her husband is the only other person who could provide details of the event, but that's unlikely to ever occur.

"After emerging from a long coma, several surgeries and intensive rehabilitation, David had no memory of what occurred so cannot describe the events himself," she said. "We know he went out alone and unarmed after midnight and did not come back. He was the person who was hurt, and I was the one who called emergency services."

O'Malley also responded to residents who wanted to see a case against the teens move forward.

"We have to look with an independent eye and we have to look at what the law says. People don't know what happened. They don't know what the actual facts are," she said.

O'Malley also noted that her office is barred from considering public pressure in filing charges.

"(A) prosecutor has to have a reasonable belief that the case can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, and that standard, of 'beyond a reasonable doubt' is what we have to prove to find someone guilty of a crime."

Agnes Lamont gave thanks to the medical teams at Eden Medical Center and Kaiser and repeated her thanks to the community for its support during her husband's recovery.

"Knowing we are surrounded by such good people has given us hope and determination to embrace what is positive and be thankful for the miraculous recovery David is now working towards," she said. "I would appeal to all parents to know where your children are, with whom, and what they are doing."

A transcript of the Pleasanton Weekly interview with O'Malley can be found here.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by BJ's
a resident of Diablo
on Feb 25, 2014 at 6:38 am

If the law says you can respond to an attacker with the same kind of violence done to you, does that mean you can leave him for dead on the side of the road?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Kluget, FKA Huh?
a resident of Danville
on Feb 25, 2014 at 8:43 am

Actually, yes. If someone attacks you you can punch them and run away. You don't have to demonstrate more concern for their safety than they demonstrated for yours.

I think the problem here is that the media trumpeted this a "vicious beating" from day one, despite the lack of evidence that that was what actually happened. If Mr. Lamont had been a black guy from Oakland who head butted someone and got punched in response, I don't think the misplaced outrage this case has generated would have ever happened.

As I've noted before, confrontations between middle-aged men and teenagers can get ugly, fast, and it's not always (or even generally, in my experience) primarily the teen's fault. The outcome is a tragedy for the Lamont family - the unintended consequence of the head injury incurred when he hit the ground is unfortunately out of proportion to what he did to cause the altercation or the blow he received in response - but maybe this should be seen as a wake up call for the would-be vigilantes in the area. Life isn't TV. Actions have consequences, sometimes serious ones.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by FanDanville
a resident of Danville
on Feb 25, 2014 at 8:46 am

I agree BJ!
At the very least, there should be some charge (and also civil negligence action) related to leaving him in injured condition without calling emergency service SINCE he was responsible for causing the injured condition whether justifiable or not. He had a duty to call.
Whoever this guy is, he needs to learn some lesson over this incident!

He would probably claim that he didn't know that the man was hurt/injured, but that probably wouldn't hold up using the reasonable person standard.

Someone knock out the DA, please!?!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by BT, Pleasanton Resident
a resident of another community
on Feb 25, 2014 at 8:47 am

Pleasanton has a 10 pm curfew for teenagers.

The code (10.09.020) has been written in such a way that if a parent or guardian is unaware that their kid(s) are out after curfew, they are off the hook. Maybe the code needs to be modified?

It is unfortunate that when you get a group of kids together, they begin to think that they can do what they want, when they want, especially if they don't get caught. Good judgement and manners seem to rapidly decline. And, as a parent, it becomes even more challenging when certain kids seem to get off when caught. So what can you say to yours?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Kluget
a resident of Danville
on Feb 25, 2014 at 9:04 am

This is rich. Previously, the local hysterics were calling for the heads of the teens based on uninformed speculation and Olympic-class conclusion jumping.

And now that we know the conclusion of the professional investigation - Mr. LaMont physically assaulted the teenager, who hit back in self-defense and then fled - you guys are not about to let facts get in the way of your opinions.

No, now you are determined to attack the victims of the attack for defending themselves, and insisting that they should have stuck around to take care of the adult man who physically attacked ***them***.

I get it that you folks and the media had already tried and convicted the teens for committing a "vicious, brutal beating" of an innocent man, and aren't willing to reassess in light of mere facts. But that's why we have professionals in charge of arrests and prosecutions, and don't rely on lynch mobs any more.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by American
a resident of Danville
on Feb 26, 2014 at 1:22 pm

"Huh": Why did you feel the need to try to bring race into this non-race issue, by your comment, "If Mr. Lamont had been a black guy..."? Whether you believe Mr. Lamont was the initial aggressor, over-reacted, etc., or was the victim of a crime, whether he was black or not black has nothing to do with anything...You lose all credibility when you try to make everything about race...Yes, racial discrimination exists in society, and that is obviously a bad thing, but people like you only add to racial divide when you bring race into a non-race issue.

I think you like to play devil's advocate on this blog, and bring the public defender's opinion to issues, which is fine,and somewhat refreshing to have diverse opinions offered, but when race has nothing to do with an issue, no need to stir that pot. People vs. Wheeler issues exist, but not in every topic and every story.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Kluget
a resident of Danville
on Feb 26, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Actually, American, I wasn't commenting on race; the point as it pertains here is that Mr. Lamont is a guy who is a lot like many people in Danville. An affluent, white professional man. People assumed he was the victim and insisted that the teens were "demon spawn" or "thugs" even when there were a lot of hints fairly early on that should have alerted them that something was not quite right with the stories being written. (When no one was arrested or charged within a week even though the identities of all involved were known and everyone had met with the police I suspected that the evidence wasn't panning out in line with what people were assuming. And I'm not a Public Defender; I just use common sense.) If Mr. Lamont wasn't a lot like what we see in the mirror or across the breakfast table each day, I think that the lynch mob mentality would have been a bit more subdued. Heck - that's probably why I feel so bad for his family - they're a lot like my family. Whatever went down, they didn't deserve this.

So, substitute Hells Angel or any other stereotype for "black guy from Oakland" and you get the same message. Don't assume that because one of the people involved in an incident looks like you or your neighbors that he's necessarily in the right; reserve judgment until the facts come out.

But since you've brought it up, if you think that race doesn't play a role in the perception of crime in this area you haven't been reading the Express. Every time a crime is reported and the police don't release a description of the race of the perp, folks post scathing commentaries here asserting that it obviously means the suspect is a minority and that fact is being suppressed due to "political correctness." I don't know if you're one of those posters, but the insistence that race isn't an issue in any discussion of crime around here is just silly.

If you don't believe me, google this case and see the kind of assumptions and commentary have been made about the teens involved. (The race of the teens has not been disclosed as far as I know.)

From comments on the Free Republic board: "Obama's SONS at it again, I'm guessing." "Was there any official description of the attacker?" "beatee is a white middle class businessman? beaters are black?" There's more of that on the Pleasanton Weekly site, although locals assume the three teens in the car are white, since they were from Pleasanton, unlike the 18 year old. My favorite post, which pretty much incorporated all of the lowbrow stupidity being written about this case there, was this:

"Doesn't pass the smell test to me. Doubtful that a white, middle-aged man with a high income, million dollar home and family to support (e.g., lots to lose) is going to start a physical altercation with a doped-up teen. This just demonstrates that there are parents in Pleasanton rich enough to pay off the DA, or the perp was a minority and she doesn't have the will to prosecute. Lesson learned - if you confront teens or others doing illegal activities outside of your home, bring a gun, and if need be use it and leave the assailant for dead. You'll have plenty of time to make up a story and the DA won't prosecute you."

Those are the sort of comments this case gave rise to. Think about that for a while.

Then tell me again how I'm the one causing all the problems about race.


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