Trial for suspect in police chase through Eureka delayed
The trial for a man facing a litany of charges related to an attempted carjacking and subsequent vehicle pursuit through downtown Eureka in December 2016 has been delayed.
Clayton Lee Lasinski, who is charged with assault with a deadly weapon, carjacking and felony evasion along with a host of special allegations, was scheduled for jury trial this month but a change in defense attorney and concerns from the prosecution it would need time to ensure numerous witnesses and law enforcement personnel were available, meant the trial is delayed until June.
Lasinski was behind the wheel of a vehicle in December 2016 when California Highway Patrol officer Brett Walker attempted a traffic stop because Lasinski had run a stop sign and was not wearing a seatbelt. After pulling over into the parking lot of a motel, he fled the scene on foot and he’s then accused of pointing a gun at a motel employee.
Lasinski then made his way to Sole Savers in Eureka and attempted to steal a car where he was spotted by a Eureka police officer who opened fire on Lasinski. Lasinski was uninjured until he ran into more police at the intersection of Sixth and B Streets, where he was shot in the shoulder.
In October 2017, Lasinski was sent to a state hospital for treatment after being found incompetent to stand trial. He underwent treatment and now awaits a criminal trial.
Lasinski was held to answer to 13 charges and faces up to 42 years in prison if convicted on all of them. That trial date remains up in the air and from the District Attorney’s perspective, ensuring all parties are prepared for the trial is of paramount importance due to the number of witnesses involved.
“The amount of resources that are spent in a case like this is extraordinarily large. Every police officer who was involved in the pursuit of Mr. Lasinski was a witness,” said the prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Luke Bernthal. “The civilians that Mr. Lasinski interacted with during the pursuit are subpoenaed. There is a multi-agency response team that followed up on the investigation — those people come from agencies that are local. All of those people need to be available for the court date. We, of course, want the case to proceed in the most timely fashion it can proceed but we want to make sure when we set a jury trial date, we’re setting a date for an actual trial.”
Lasinski is now represented by RJ Leohner of the Conflict Counsel’s office and he made an oral motion to have the trial delayed so that he could familiarize himself with the case.
That motion was granted by Judge John Feeney and the parties will be back in court for a hearing on May 20.
Hearing set for transport to state hospital
Ewa Misztal was in court for a confirmation of the date she is to be sent back to Napa State Hospital for treatment.
Misztal, who was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the death of her 7-month-old daughter, Gigi, was ordered back to the state hospital by Judge Christopher Wilson in April against the wishes of her defense attorney, Deputy Public Defender Casey Russo.
Russo has argued that Misztal would be better served by undergoing outpatient treatment locally but Wilson ruled on the side of the DA and a doctor’s evaluation that she should spend at least 180 days under observation at Napa.
A May 21 hearing will determine the day she is to be transported.
Kissing inmates in the courtroom
While Lasinski was waiting for his portion of the hearing to begin, he received a kiss on the lips from fellow inmate, Ewa Misztal, who was seated in the jury box in custody a few seats from Lasinski. When her portion of the hearing was completed, Misztal glanced at Lasinski gave him a big smile and then sat in the chair next to him and gave him a kiss.
That got the bailiffs out of their chairs and Misztal was escorted from the courtroom while Lasinski smiled at someone in the gallery.
Dan Squier can be reached at 707-441-0506.