Man charged with fatal hit-and-run of chief campus counsel Christopher Patti to enter pleas

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Jonathan Ritter, a 29-year-old Monte Rio native who was arrested for a hit-and-run that resulted in the death of UC Berkeley chief campus counsel Christopher Patti, was held to answer Tuesday after being charged with two felonies and multiple misdemeanors, as first reported by SFGate.

Ritter’s charges include vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and a hit-and-run, as well as driving without a license, vandalism and disorderly conduct while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Charles Applegate, Ritter’s lawyer, said his client will likely plead not guilty so the case can proceed to trial.

“It’s a very serious and traumatic case; we look forward to justice being done,” Applegate said.

The two-day hearing that began on July 2, presided over by Judge Dana Simonds of the Sonoma County Superior Court, established that there is enough cause on the part of the defendant to hold over for a trial, according to SFGate.

In August 2017, Patti was struck by a vehicle — later confirmed to be a BMW — while biking in Sonoma County. SFGate said that first responders from the Russian River Fire Protection District had pronounced him dead at the scene.

California Highway Patrol, or CHP, had found a license plate at the crash site, said CHP spokesperson Officer Jonathan Sloat. CHP spoke to the BMW’s registered owner, a friend of Ritter who recounted lending him the vehicle.

Sloat said a witness at the site also confirmed that Ritter was the driver.

“Our belief is that the state will not be able to prove that he was driving the car,” Applegate said. “They have no credible, reliable witnesses that put him behind the wheel.”

The next day, Ritter’s mother called the CHP office to inform them that Ritter planned to turn himself in, though the defendant ultimately did not do so, according to Sloat. After Ritter was sighted in the Monte Rio area on Aug. 29, officers from CHP and the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office converged on the scene and arrested him at the Monte Rio Amphitheater.

Ritter was booked by 11 p.m. that night and held on two sets of charges which, together, totaled to $1,005,000 in bail, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office website said.

As is arraignment procedure, the prosecutor will pursue the felonies, which are higher-level proceedings, before resolving the trailing misdemeanor charges, according to Joe Langenbahn, spokesperson for the Sonoma County district attorney’s office.

Langenbahn also expects that a trial date will be set. Ritter, who remains in police custody, according to his inmate page, will “enter his pleas” at 9 a.m. Monday.

Campus administration declined to comment on the results of the hearing.

“Chris Pattis is deeply missed and mourned to this day, and … we hope justice will be served,” said campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof in an email.

Contact Anna Ho at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @anna_j_ho.