Alameda County District Attorney's Office
Nancy E. O'Malley, District Attorney

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People v Meghan Anne Zato

On November 13, 2015, Defendant Meghan Anne Zato was found guilty of assault with a deadly weapon causing brain injury to victim James Roda, two counts of driving under the influence of alcohol resulting in the personal infliction of great bodily injury causing coma, as well as an additional count of hit and run.

Shortly after midnight on October 5, 2013, Defendant Zato (who was a law student at the University of California - Hastings College of Law at the time of the offences), was kicked out of the Ruby Room bar in Oakland by bar security due to disruptive and belligerent behavior. Outside the bar, Defendant Zato saw a group of people tagging the Oakland library with graffiti. Defendant Zato confronted the group and an argument ensued. She repeatedly threatened to call the police on them, and a member of the group punched Defendant Zato in the face and took her cell phone.

Rather than seeking help after being assaulted, Defendant Zato walked to her Mercedes which was parked further down the street. There, she smoked a cigarette for approximately 5 minutes as she collected herself. When a few individuals from the group who initially assaulted her came toward the rear of her car, witnesses observed Defendant Zato accelerate her car forward approximately 60 feet into the intersection of 14th Street and Oak Street, flip a U-turn, and begin to accelerate back up the street toward the area where she was initially assaulted by the library.

As Defendant Zato revved her engine and increased speed up 14th Street away from Lake Merritt, victim James Roda stepped off the curb, mid-block, to cross the street from the library to the Ruby Room bar. Defendant Zato crossed over the double yellow lines into the lanes of oncoming traffic where James Roda was crossing the road and hit him. Witnesses observed Defendant Zato’s Mercedes smash into James Roda, causing him to fly up on the hood of the vehicle and his head to shatter the vehicle’s front windshield. The impact threw the victim approximately 30 yards. Defendant Zato sped off, failing to stop at the scene.

Defendant Zato was pursued by a good samaritan in a truck whom she led on a dangerous, high-speed chase throughout Oakland, driving against traffic and without regard for road signs, signals, or posted speed limits. Defendant Zato’s Mercedes was eventually stopped by pursuing civilians who blocked her forward progress with their vehicles near the Kaiser Convention Center at Lake Merritt. Responding medical personnel and officers from Oakland Police Department found Defendant Zato hostile and belligerent, and displaying evident signs of intoxication.

The victim suffered severe injuries and was placed in a medically-induced coma. He now suffers permanent and life-altering injuries sustained from the event.

At trial, the jury rejected testimony from Defendant Zato that her actions were the result of necessity, duress, and accident. Defendant Meghan Anne Zato is scheduled to be sentenced on January 8, 2016.

This case was prosecuted by DDA Adam Maldonado with assistance from Inspector Tom Cleary and Victim-Witness Advocate Maria Suniga.

(Docket #174347)

Posted on Nov 13, 2015