A Stanislaus County judge Tuesday delayed sentencing a Modesto nonprofit official convicted of killing a man with his car, then leaving the scene, after a defense attorney alleged "serious prejudicial misconduct" by the case's prosecutor.
The prosecutor, 42-year-old Deputy District Attorney Nate Baker, died Aug. 5, about two months after a jury found William Gibbs guilty of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and felony hit-and-run.
Gibbs' attorney, Stephen Foley of Modesto, said Gibbs should get a new trial because Baker used inflammatory statements, mocked defense testimony, personally attacked defense counsel and witnesses and implied that an expert was paid to support a defense theory.
"The prosecutor committed numerous incidents of misconduct," Foley said in his motion.
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Deputy District Attorney John R. Mayne said he plans to "vigorously oppose" the allegations, but declined further comment until he files his formal opposition with the court.
Although the timing of the accusations may appear callous, Foley said after the hearing that he is ethically bound to vigorously defend Gibbs despite his personal sympathies.
Foley said he told Baker of his plans to file the motion alleging misconduct before his death.
"He was a person who I greatly respected and admired," Foley said.
Foley's motion was filed Aug. 23, too late for Superior Court Judge John Freeland to rule on it Tuesday. Freeland set a new date to consider the motion and possibly sentence Gibbs on Sept. 23. Freeland also denied Mayne's request to send Gibbs to jail to await his sentencing.
To win a new trial, Foley must prove Baker committed misconduct and that Gibbs would likely have been acquitted or found guilty of lesser charges if not for Baker's alleged actions.
Gibbs, who was acquitted of the case's most serious accusations, could face up to four years in prison or as little as probation.
The May 2008 confrontation between Gibbs and his victim, Mario Martinez, 25, began as a dispute over loud music, authorities said. It ended when Gibbs hit Martinez with his gold Lexus, fracturing Martinez's skull, according to testimony.
Foley countered that Gibbs was forced to act in self-defense, startled when a drunk and angry Martinez stormed Gibbs' car.
As recently as September of last year, Gibbs was the development director of the Stanislaus Community Assistance Project.
Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2337.