The calendared Nov. 13 arraignment for Calexico City Council Member Rosie Fernandez on driving-under-the-influence and hit-and-run charges was a nonevent as her attorney quietly entered her pleas of not guilty the day before.
The action came in a so-called “window arraignment” executed by defense attorney Eduardo Rivera at the county Superior Court criminal division office the afternoon of Nov. 12, court records show.
The maneuver allows a defendant to avoid appearing in person at a formal court arraignment.
Fernandez pleaded not guilty to four misdemeanor counts.
A pre-trial was set for Nov. 26 at 9 a.m. Because of the nature of the window arraignment, the case had not been assigned to a judge or a courtroom as of Nov. 13.
A trial readiness conference was set for Dec. 9, with a jury trial scheduled to begin Dec. 10, according to the minutes from the window arraignment.
Fernandez did not immediately respond to phone calls and text messages Nov. 13 seeking comment.
Rivera, a former Calexico city council member and city attorney in the 1990s, would not comment on the reasoning behind Fernandez’s not-guilty pleas when reached by phone the morning of Nov. 13.
The charges against Fernandez, 62, include two counts of hit-and-run driving resulting in property damage stemming from a May 5 collision in Calexico.
A count of driving under the influence of an alcoholic beverage with a blood-alcohol level of .15 percent or above, and one count of driving with a .08 percent blood-alcohol content, were filed in connection with a July 6 collision.
Multiple cases, one proceeding
The cases are being prosecuted by the state Attorney General’s office. The office of county District Attorney Gilbert Otero declared a conflict of interest because Fernandez worked on Otero’s 2018 re-election campaign. State prosecutors have repeatedly declined to comment on details of the case.
In the May 5 incident Fernandez was the alleged driver of a vehicle that sped through a Calexico intersection, struck a sign and a parked car and left the scene.
The incident was caught on video and later posted to social media. Fernandez later admitted being the driver and said she reported so to Calexico police on May 6.
In the July 6 crash, Fernandez allegedly had a blood-alcohol level nearly twice the legal limit when the vehicle she was driving collided with a trailer being pulled by a pickup on Highway 111 near Heber.
The Attorney General’s office combined the cases into one proceeding, according to information in a Sept. 25 criminal complaint.
Fernandez told this newspaper in an interview that she had somehow “passed out” at the wheel in the May 5 incident, but that she didn’t know what had happened. She admitted to the possibility of losing consciousness from a prescription medication she was taking.
In another interview with this newspaper following the July 6 arrest, Fernandez denied being under the influence of alcohol, maintaining she had drank some wine and had taken some prescription medication several hours before the early-morning crash.
This story is featured in the Nov 14, 2019 e-Edition.