San Francisco 49ers cornerback Christopher Culliver today pleaded not guilty to felony possession of brass knuckles and two misdemeanor hit-and-run charges in Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose.
Culliver, 25, who appeared in court sporting glasses, a Mohawk-like haircut, a gray suit, black-and-red argyle socks and dark-colored water shoes, had his attorney Josh Bentley enter his plea for him as they stood near a line of news cameras.
Judge Shelyna Brown approved Bentley’s request for a waiver giving Culliver the right not to appear in future hearings on the charges against him, and set the next hearing on the case for May 14.
Brown also approved Bentley’s motion to waive his client’s right to a preliminary hearing within 60 days. Culliver answered “Yes” to Brown after the judge asked him if he understood he was waiving that right.
After the hearing, Culliver, accompanied by a woman and three men other than Bentley, retreated to a private room connected to the courtroom. He later exited the Hall of Justice through a side door, thus avoiding a phalanx of news reporters waiting out front.
Culliver is charged with felony possession of brass knuckles, an illegal weapon used for hand-to-hand combat, one count of misdemeanor hit-and-run causing injury and a count of misdemeanor hit-and-run involving property damage, according to the district attorney’s office.
Police arrested Culliver on March 28 in San Jose following an incident in which witnesses claimed Culliver, driving a white Ford Mustang, collided with a bicyclist, attempted to drive away, then collided with a car driven by a witness to the earlier hit-and-run collision.
Some witnesses to the collision drove after Culliver’s Mustang for a while on city streets, then used their cars to block his car and prevent him from escaping.
After police arrived, officers looked inside Culliver’s Mustang and found brass knuckles, which led to the felony charge, according to prosecutors.
Meanwhile, in a separate case in the same courthouse today, a judge set a new date for criminal proceedings against Culliver’s 49ers teammate, linebacker Aldon Smith.
Smith, 24, is charged with three felony counts of possessing illegal assault weapons, two counts of misdemeanor DUI and an infraction for failing to present evidence of car registration to a police officer.
Deputy District Attorney Brian Buckelew and Bentley, who is representing Culliver and Smith in their separate criminal matters, discussed the case against Smith at a status conference in the judge’s chambers.
The felony weapons charges and DUI allegations against Smith, filed last year, will be discussed again at another status conference on April 29, according to Buckelew.
Smith has also been granted a motion allowing him to skip court appearances and has not shown up in the San Jose court since he entered a not guilty plea to the illegal weapons charges, with Bentley at his side, on Nov. 12.
The weapons charges were filed by the district attorney’s office on Oct. 9 based on a months-long investigation after sheriff’s deputies recovered three alleged assault rifles inside Smith’s rented home outside San Jose in 2012.
From June 29 to 30, 2012, Smith hosted a rowdy party at his home during which two people were shot and wounded by unknown suspects and Smith himself was stabbed in the leg but not seriously hurt.
Prosecutors said that Smith also repeatedly fired a .45 caliber handgun into the air in an attempt to break up the party.
While investigating the incident, deputies found the three rifles that prosecutors claim are assault weapons that are illegal in California.
The DUI case against Smith’s stemmed from his arrest on suspicion of DUI and marijuana possession on Sept. 20, after police said he crashed his car into a tree outside a suburban home on Bentley Ridge Drive in San Jose.
Jeff Burbank, Bay City News