SF Law Student Faces Charges After Allegedly Driving Into Pedestrian On Purpose

A law student has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly using her car to strike and seriously injure a man on a street near Lake Merritt in Oakland early Saturday morning, authorities said today.

Meghan Anne Zato, 25, of Oakland, a student at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, was arraigned in Alameda County Superior Court on Monday on the assault charge as well as a charge of leaving the scene of an accident.

Zato, who is free on bail, is scheduled to return to court on Wednesday to finalize her legal representation, according to a spokeswoman for Richard Meier, the attorney who represented her on Monday. Another attorney, David Knutsen, will represent her on Wednesday, the spokeswoman said.

Zato is accused of hitting 25-year-old James Roda of Oakland with her 1984 Mercedes Benz near the intersection of 14th Street and Lakeside Drive at about 12:50 a.m. on Saturday.

Oakland police Officer Kristine Jurgens-Duenas said in a probable cause statement that Zato had been “in an altercation with unknown subjects” and then got into her car, made a U-turn and “intentionally struck” Roda.

Jurgens-Duenas didn’t say what the altercation was about and Oakland police spokeswoman Johnna Watson didn’t return phone calls today seeking comment about the incident.

Jurgens-Duenas said Zato fled the scene after she struck Roda but officers were able to arrest her nearby in the 100 block of Lake Merritt Boulevard a few minutes later.

The officer said Zato “had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from her person and mouth, slurred and slow speech as well as bloodshot watery and droopy eyes.”

Zato also was “hostile and offensive,” Jurgens-Duenas said.

Roda is in stable condition at a local hospital but still isn’t awake, according to Ramon Clemons, his boss at the Original Red Onion restaurant in Alameda. Roda has had surgery on his head to reduce the swelling he suffered after being hit by the car, Clemons said.

Roda works as a server and a fryer cook at the restaurant and is being trained to be a grill cook as well, Clemons said.

He described Roda as “very congenial and a hard worker.”

Clemons said Roda had been arrested for driving under the influence but has been taking classes to deal with that and he also is planning to attend a culinary school.

Roda also has a girlfriend in Los Angeles and eventually wants to move to that area to be near her, he said.
Clemons said he’s been told that shortly before Roda was struck by the car he’d been drinking at the nearby Ruby Room bar at 132 14th St.

Roda goes to the bar regularly because he likes to play pool there and the bar will host an event for him on Saturday to raise money to help pay for his medical expenses, Clemons said.

The Original Red Onion also is collecting money to help pay for Roda’s medical expenses, he said.

Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News

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