After DUI hit-and-run, threats, man set to enter plea

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A man described by police as a DUI driver with a suspended license who crashed into another vehicle in Berkeley and threatened to kill a witness is set to enter a plea next week in Alameda County Superior Court, according to court papers.

The crash took place in August, and Jose Paz-Leja, 25, was charged at that time with multiple felonies. He is set to enter a plea in the case Nov. 30, and has been released on $190,000 bail.

According to court papers, a Berkeley police officer was dispatched to a hit-and-run crash Aug. 13 at Bancroft Way and Acton Street. Dispatchers said the driver of a blue Ford pick-up truck had fled the scene, and run south on Edwards Street.

“A witness to the collision attempted to detain Paz-Leja, who threatened to kill the witness if he was followed. One of the involved parties had a laceration to her hand and complained of severe chest pain as a result of being struck by an airbag,” according to court papers.

Police said the truck smelled of marijuana and alcohol, and were able to use its registration and other information related to the investigation to identify the driver as Paz-Leja. The truck was registered to his Berkeley address on Alcatraz Avenue.

Police went to that address where they found Paz-Leja and learned his license was already suspended due to a prior DUI case.

“Paz-Leja had fresh injuries to his face, consistent with those sustained from air-bag deployment. Paz-Leja stated his truck had been stolen and denied any involvement in the collision,” police wrote in court documents.

He also had an active warrant for his arrest, according to court papers. Online records from the Alameda County sheriff’s office indicate the warrant was related to firearm possession and related violations.

tipster told Berkeleyside in August that the driver “ran a stop sign, hit a woman going through the intersection, careened into an oncoming truck, hit at least two parked cars, then did the runner.” BPD said, at the time, police were able to catch up with the man, who was arrested on suspicion of felony hit-and-run and DUI. “Nobody at the scene was seriously injured,” said BPD.

Witnesses identified Paz-Leja as the driver from the hit-and-run, according to court papers obtained by Berkeleyside. Police also screened him to see if he had been driving while intoxicated and found him to be under the influence of alcohol and marijuana, according to court documents.

The Alameda County district attorney’s office charged Paz-Leja with three felonies: leaving the scene of an accident, dissuading two witnesses by force or threat, and making criminal threats. He faces two misdemeanors, related to the alleged DUI and driving on a suspended license.

According to court documents, he has one prior conviction, from June 2012, related to felony forgery.

Paz-Leja is scheduled for a plea hearing next week Wednesday, Nov. 30, at the René C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland.

According to records online, he has a painting, dry wall and demolition business in Berkeley with his father.

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