MERCED — A 29-year-old man wasn't able to escape deputies when he led them on a high-speed chase in August, but he did shake off some of his charges last week.
A Merced County jury on Friday found James Corbin guilty of evading a peace officer with reckless driving, and guilty of possession of a stolen vehicle.
However, Corbin was found not guilty of assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer, and not guilty of simple assault on a peace officer.
Corbin will be sentenced next month to between three and seven years in state prison, said Deputy Public Defender Chris Loethen, who represented Corbin. Had he been found guilty on all charges, Corbin would've faced a sentence of about 10 years. Assault on a peace officer was the most serious charge and the only one that would've been a strike.
The defense didn't dispute the two charges Corbin was found guilty of.
No one was injured during the pursuit.
It was about five minutes into the pursuit when Corbin was cornered in a field, Loethen said. That's when deputies claimed he rammed the patrol car at 45 mph to escape, hence the charge of assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer.
Loethen thinks the jury found Corbin not guilty on that charge because testimony from deputies didn't match up with photos of the damage to the cruiser or a diagram made by a deputy and shown to the jury at a preliminary hearing. "I think that was important," Loethen said.
Deputy District Attorney Thomas Min prosecuted the case, but he could be reached for comment.
The 45-minute chase started on Aug. 16 after the Merced Police Department took a report of a stolen Terminix truck inside the city limit, said Deputy Tom MacKenzie, sheriff's spokesman.
A Merced sheriff's unit spotted the vehicle on Farmdale Avenue in the county after an alert was issued, MacKenzie said. When law enforcement tried to stop the truck, the suspect fled down county roads, along canal banks, and through orchards at speeds of more than 100 mph, they said.
More units from the Sheriff's Department, the Merced Police Department and the California Highway Patrol joined in the pursuit.
During the chase, the truck hit a sheriff's patrol car parked in the median of Highway 99 near East Mission Avenue, MacKenzie said. The cruiser caught fire and was destroyed, but no deputies were injured.
Continuing his attempt to evade law enforcement, Corbin drove into the Merced Airport, where he spun out on the runway and drove through several fences, some of them residential, MacKenzie said.
He drove onto a school playground on West Childs Avenue and N Street, MacKenzie said. Though there were a few children playing in the area, none of them were injured.
A sheriff's helicopter joined the pursuit to track the truck and allow units to follow at a safer distance.
After driving through more orchards, Corbin got out of the vehicle near East South Bear Creek Drive and North Arboleda Drive, MacKenzie said.
Corbin dived into a canal, but the helicopter was able to lead officers to his location and he was captured after the deputies got into the water and subdued him, MacKenzie said.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.