‘I hit those people:’ Opening statements presented in trial of accused drunken driver who hit bicyclists

by ZeuCer

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A motorist had a blood-alcohol content more than three times the legal limit when he hit two bicyclists — leaving one in a coma — and fled the scene before police pulled him over, a prosecutor said.

But a defense attorney during opening statements Wednesday said Joshua Ramage didn’t cause the crash, pointing out the bicyclists wore dark clothing and their bikes weren’t equipped with reflectors or lights as they rode at night on Stockdale Highway. Ramage didn’t see them until impact, Deputy Public Defender Thomas J. Pope said.

Pope noted one of the bicyclists had PCP and methamphetamine in his system.

“This is a case about being at the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said.

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Ramage, 43, is charged with three felonies: DUI causing bodily injury, DUI with BAC .08% or more and hit-and-run causing death or permanent serious injury.

Prosecutor Tara Deal opened the trial by describing the May 1, 2021, collision near the intersection of Stockdale Highway and California Avenue. She told jurors Ramage hit the bicyclists, entered a neighborhood then made a turn back onto Stockdale heading away from the crash when an officer dispatched to the scene noticed damage to his Ford Excursion and stopped him.

“I hit those people,” Ramage said as Bakersfield police Officer Jeremy Wolter approached.

Breath tests revealed Ramage had a BAC of 0.25%. The legal limit for driving is .08%.

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Deal told the jury medical personnel will testify to the injuries the bicyclists suffered. One of them had skull fractures and internal injuries and was in a coma, she said.

She’s seeking guilty verdicts on all charges and enhancements.

Pope disputed Deal’s description of events, saying his client never attempted to flee or escape. He said Ramage had been looking for a place to turn around to return and cooperate with the investigation.

“Now what happened that night was a tragedy,” Pope said. “No one wants to see someone get hurt.”

But no one expects to see two bikes traveling in the middle of the road at night, either, Pope said. After all the evidence is presented, he told jurors, he expects they’ll return not-guilty verdicts.

Wolter, the first witness called to the stand, testified Ramage appeared intoxicated when he ordered him out of the SUV. He said Ramage had red and watery eyes, slurred his words and smelled of alcohol.

Body-camera footage played in court shows Ramage tell the officer he drank seven or eight 12-ounce Coors beers starting at 10 a.m., consuming the last one about an hour before the crash. He questions why Wolter even bothers having him perform field sobriety tests and says he knows he’s going to jail.

Near the end of the roughly half-hour video, Ramage, who’s been told the crash resulted in serious injuries, repeatedly says he’s ruined his life.

“I’m (expletive) worried about those people,” he says. The trial continues this afternoon.

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