Undercover grandma nailed hit-and-run driver - Personal Injury Legal Blogs Posted by R. Lewis Van Blois - Lawyers.com

Undercover grandma nailed hit-and-run driver

    Oakland personal injury lawyer Lewis Van Blois sent a letter to hit-and-run driver Robert Schiro in February 2010, accusing him of driving the car that struck Ashley Jackson, resulting in her severe injuries.  Schiro became upset upon reading the letter and stated he was the driver of the hit-and-run car.  His employee overheard the statement and reported it to the police, resulting in Schiro’s arrest.

Kay Blanset didn’t expect her new job as an office assistant to be very exciting. Then her co-workers told her about the open secret their arrogant boss, Robert Schiro, had been keeping:

He was the hit-and-run driver who plowed into a bicyclist in Saratoga in 2009, leaving her brain damaged and near death. Schiro, whose license was suspended at the time for drunken driving, denied to the police that he was at the wheel. But in private, he told a different story.

"I urged the people I worked with to go to the police, but no one would," Blanset told me. "So I knew I had to."

And that’s how a Gilroy grandmother set a trap for a guy who had been stonewalling the cops for months, living in his hillside home with his girlfriends and his fancy cars, while the young woman he ran down fought through pain, physical weakness and memory loss.

When Blanset told the cops what her co-workers had said, the authorities said they needed more than hearsay. She would have to get Schiro’s admissions firsthand.

So she went back to work, undercover and a bit on edge. It didn’t take long before she heard him tell someone he had been driving that day. He claimed that Jackson had run into him, not the other way around. Blanset went back to the cops, gave her statement putting him in the driver’s seat, and quit her job.

In May, more than a year after the accident, Schiro, 70, was arrested at his office on felony hit and run and driving on a suspended license.

Last week, he pleaded guilty, and Blanset was relieved. Her undercover work had sealed the case against him.

"I felt very good about that," she said. "I want to get drunks off the road."

Doing it for her grandson

Blanset knows too well the pain drunken drivers cause. Her grandson, Eric Quesada, was killed by one in 2002. In a highly publicized case, Quesada was riding with fellow Los Gatos High School students when the teen driver, who was drunk, hit a pole and flipped his SUV.

"So I had to take action," she told me. "I sort of did it in my grandson’s memory."

Schiro, through his attorney, has declined to comment. Like Blanset, I’m was relieved that he pleaded guilty. The first decent thing this guy has done since the accident was to spare us the expense of a trial. I only hope that his plea doesn’t get him out of serving time. The maximum sentence for his crime is four years in prison. But because he pleaded, he’ll likely get only a year in jail when he is sentenced by Superior Court Judge Rene Navarro on Oct. 5. And even that could be reduced to house arrest because of his age.

He should do time

In my book, that would be a miscarriage of justice. This guy was driving illegally when he plowed into Ashley and her boyfriend on a wide, straight road in broad daylight. Was he drunk? We’ll never know. He drove off without offering help, hid his damaged car in his garage and then claimed his girlfriend had been driving it. Not exactly a profile in courage. He should do time.

"This man lives as if he’s above the law," said David Nelson, who was riding with Ashley and was grazed by Schiro’s car. "He made his own choice to be on the road that day. Ashley has to live with it the rest of her life."

By the way, Ashley and Dave got married this summer and have a new baby, Chloe. So many people have rallied around them, from their cyclist friends to total strangers like Blanset, that Dave says they’re feeling good about the future.

"Because of Ashley’s strength and everyone pulling together, we’ll get through this."

*Article orginally appeared in the Mercury News by Columnist Patty Fisher.

 Oakland personal injury lawyer Lewis Van Blois sent a letter to hit-and-run driver Robert Schiro in February 2010, accusing him of driving the car that struck Ashley Jackson, resulting in her severe injuries.  Schiro became upset upon reading the letter and stated he was the driver of the hit-and-run car.  His employee overheard the statement and reported it to the police, resulting in Schiro’s arrest.

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