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Hearing in street racing case postponed for 5th time

Attorney for one defendant unable to make court appearance

Posted: April 29, 2013 1:30 p.m.
Updated: April 29, 2013 1:30 p.m.

SAN FERNANDO — For the fifth time, and with a courtroom filled with spectators and witnesses ready to testify, the preliminary hearing of two men charged with murder in a Sand Canyon street racing death was delayed Monday.

Colt Sean Doherty, 19, and Thomas Joseph Vensko, 20, both of Canyon Country, appeared in San Fernando Superior Court on suspicion of second-degree murder in the death of Dakota DeMott, 19, also of Canyon Country.

DeMott was killed in January 2012 while Doherty and Vensko were allegedly street racing on Sand Canyon Road and Doherty’s Mustang slammed into an oak tree. The District Attorney’s office opted to pursue a murder charge against the two defendants.

Superior Court Judge Daniel B. Feldstern told the accused men to come back to court next month for their much-awaited preliminary hearing after listening to reasons why Vensko’s lawyer was not able to appear in court to represent him.

“There is an end date to this,” he said, referring to how many times the hearing could be postponed. “May 20 appears to be the end date.”

Reasons for Monday’s postponement hinged on Vensko’s lawyer, Todd Melnick, not being in court for what was scheduled to be the first day of the preliminary hearing.

Doherty’s lawyer, John Hobson, asked the judge for permission to represent Doherty’s co-accused in light of Melnick’s absence.

The judge instead asked Hobson to provide “good cause” for why he should grant another continuance.

After a 10-minute break, during which time he called Melnick, Hobson told the court that Melnick was forced to care for his teenage daughter due to a pressing medical condition.

Melnick, through his message delivered by Hobson, assured the court he would be able to proceed with the preliminary hearing next month.

When the preliminary hearing actually takes place, prosecutors will present evidence in the case, and the defense can respond, after which the judge will decide if the case should go to trial.

If it goes to trial and the two men are convicted, each faces a state prison sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole.

In addition to murder, Doherty, who remains in custody with bail set at $1 million, is also charged with one count of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and one count of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs causing injury.

Vensko, who was released from custody in November after posting $100,000 bail, is also charged with vehicular manslaughter.
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt




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