Pre-plea report ordered in Puckett’s felony case (April 24, 2018)

RANCHO CUCAMONGA — A pre-plea report has been ordered in the felony hit-and-run case against Apple Valley’s former assistant town manager, court records show, signaling the potential for public disclosure of his thoughts on the crash and his alleged fleeing from the scene.

An order for the report, which will be prepared by San Bernardino County Probation, came Thursday during Marc Puckett’s pre-preliminary hearing, an atypical move in the county’s superior court system, according to Deputy District Attorney Tonya Cole.

“We don’t normally do these,” Cole told the Daily Press on Tuesday. “It’s basically doing the probation report ahead of time … It’s something that’s going to give all the parties more information about the case and the background.”

Contrary to what its name might suggest, Cole said the report does not necessarily indicate a plea is forthcoming in the case that stems from a late-night crash on southbound Interstate 15 last July involving Puckett’s 2011 Cadillac CTS and a 2011 Toyota Prius driven by Lola Espinoza, of Rancho Cucamonga.

Rather, it’s the result of an “information-gathering” process that could include California Highway Patrol (CHP) reports, Cole’s case file, as well as input from Espinoza and Puckett, among other details.

“They (county probation) can fashion it different ways, but, generally, what it is is the defendant will be interviewed,” Cole said. “They’ll be provided with a synopsis of what the crime is, what the defendant’s background is, his thoughts on the crime (and) if there’s remorse and a sense of taking responsibility.”

Defense attorneys can advise clients not to speak directly to the case if it remains active, according to Cole, who said she did not know whether Daniel L. Greenberg has advised Puckett in that way.

Greenberg did not respond to multiple messages left with his Riverside-based office on Monday and Tuesday.

The pre-plea report will also include a discussion of restitution and a recommendation for sentencing, Cole said. She confirmed that she has offered Puckett a plea bargain, but declined to further discuss the matter, saying, “We’re still in the negotiating phase.”

Puckett was charged Dec. 5 with felony hit-and-run in connection to the crash, which occurred about 600 feet south of Foothill Boulevard in Rancho Cucamonga when his Cadillac rear-ended Espinoza’s Prius before losing control and traveling off the freeway.

He allegedly fled the scene shortly thereafter.

Despite confirming he was “in an accident,” though, Puckett previously denied the involvement of a second vehicle, calling it a “crap story.” He pleaded not guilty on Dec. 14 and his position inside Town Hall was eliminated — for financial reasons — in January by new Town Manager Doug Robertson.

He has not been arrested at any point since the crash, according to a previous Daily Press report in which Greenberg stated that his client’s now-former job was not among the factors considered before he was released on his own recognizance after the arraignment.

Espinoza was treated at Kaiser Permanente in Ontario for injuries to her neck and back. She told the Daily Press on Tuesday that she has not yet been in contact with county probation, but she said she plans to read a statement in court if Puckett is convicted.

The pre-plea report should be ready by the next hearing on June 6, but it will likely bring another continuance, according to Cole.

“It might be (when) the defense first sees it, and they might want time to look into that further,” she said. “It’s pretty common.”

Source: Matthew Cabe, Daily Press

Files dealing with Marc Puckett