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People v. Bregel


In an information filed by the Los Angeles County District Attorney, appellant, Jeffrey Bregel, was charged with driving under the influence causing injury (Veh.Code [FN1] § 23153) and driving under the influence (§ 23152 subd. (a)). The information further alleged that appellant had suffered five prior driving under the influence (DUI)-related convictions (within the meaning of §§ 23550 and 23550.5). FN1. Further undesignated statutory references are to the Vehicle Code. The case was tried before a jury, and on April 2, 2003, the jury found appellant guilty of DUI causing injury and also found true the allegation that appellant had refused to submit to a blood or urine test. Appellant waived his right to a jury trial and other constitutional rights as to the prior allegations and admitted one prior conviction. The trial court sentenced appellant to the upper term of three years and awarded him total pre-sentence credit of 319 days. Appellant filed a timely notice of appeal. STATEMENT OF FACTS On September 2, 2002, at 1:20 a.m., appellant, Jeffrey Bregel, rear-ended a vehicle driven by Julio Cazes. As a result of being struck, Cazes's car became airborne, knocked down a light pole and finally came to rest upside down. Both Los Angeles County firefighters and Los Angeles police officers responded to the scene. Julio Cazes and witnesses at the scene smelled alcohol on appellant's breath and noticed that he appeared to be intoxicated. Appellant admitted to one firefighter and one police officer that he had been drinking. He later refused to be treated and was hostile and aggressive toward both the firefighters and the police officers that arrested him. Appellant refused to perform field sobriety tests and refused to submit to a chemical DUI test. An accident investigator testified that there were no pre-impact skid marks at the scene and that appellant was traveling at least 75 miles per hour at the time he rear-ended Cazes. Witnesses at the scene put appellant's speed from either 80 to 85 or 95 to 100 miles per hour. On April 1, 2003, during the trial, appellant brought to the court's attention the fact that there had been a newspaper article in the City News that discussed his case. There had also been a story broadcast on NBC about the accident. The fact that appellant had prior DUI convictions was mentioned in the City News article as well as in other pre-trial coverage. The prosecutor admitted to having spoken to the press concerning her opening statement. Appellant requested that the jury be polled to determine if any of the jurors had read it. The court denied this request. When later raised on a motion for a new trial, the court rejected the contention that defendant was prejudiced by the refusal to poll the jury regarding the newspaper article. The court stated that the jury had been instructed not to consider any extrajudicial evidence, and that defendant had not shown that any juror failed to heed this admonition. CONTENTIONS ON APPEAL We appointed counsel to represent defendant on appeal. On September 22, 2003, appointed counsel filed a brief in which no issues are raised. (People v. Wende (1979) 25 Cal.3d 436, 441-442.) On September 22, 2003, we advised defendant he had 30 days within which to submit by brief or letter any grounds of appeal, contentions, or argument he wished this court to consider. On October 24, 2003, we received "Appellant's Supplemental Brief" in which he contends that he should be granted a mistrial because "during the weekend prior to Monday April 1, 2003 or on March 29th, a Saturday, an article containing a seeming very unethical quote by Deputy [District Attorney] Paula Gonzales was published prejudicing my case." [FN2] And, "[j]ust because [the trial judge] instructed this ju

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