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Three youths in court on I-80 overpass rock-throwing, barrier-tossing assault charges

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Three former Colfax High School football players made their first appearance in court Monday on assault charges connected to a bizarre July 26 incident when gravel, rocks and a barricade were thrown off an overpass at passing vehicles on Interstate 80. Wearing shackles and placed on chairs so they could not face visitors during their arraignment in a North Auburn courtroom before Judge Larry Gaddis, the three – Hunter Perez, 16, Samuel Edward Quinlan, 16, and Sean Edwin Steele, 17 – pleaded not guilty to a string of felony charges related to the early morning incident at the Canyon Way overpass. Currently in custody at the Juvenile Detention Center in North Auburn, they’ll return to court Wednesday for a bail hearing. Bail is currently at $150,000 each. Wednesday is also the first day of the new school year at Colfax High. Thomas Leupp, defense attorney for Perez, said after proceedings ended that his client was active in football and track his first two years at Colfax High and had never been in juvenile court before on any charges. “It looks like he engaged in some foolish and reckless behavior and he expects some consequences for that,” Leupp said. “There was never any intent to hurt anybody. None of these boys had any intention to hurt anyone.” Court documents obtained by the Journal provide more details of the allegations the Placer County District Attorney’s Office filed last week in a felony complaint against the three. Perez, Quinlan and Steele initially started out throwing gravel off the overpass onto the I-80 roadway, the complaint states. The three then gathered rocks and a barricade from nearby and returned to throw the barricade and rocks onto oncoming traffic. The barricade was thrown off the overpass at a tractor-trailer driven by Derrick Scrivens. A semi driven by Will Kernan was also struck by a rock. Neither trucker was injured. But Jose Palomera of Sacramento wasn’t so fortunate. A rock thrown from above crashed through the windshield of the Ford Explorer he was driving. The rock hit Palomera’s face, smashed his jaw and fractured several bones. Instead of preparing for back-to-school, the three youths were told of a series of court dates in the next month as they deal with assault-with-a-deadly-weapon, assault likely to produce great bodily injury, battery with serious bodily injury, and conspiracy charges. All are felonies. Auburn attorney Dean Starks, who is representing Steele, said his client has never had problems with the law before, gets good grades, was anticipating starting for the Falcons varsity football team this fall, and had plans to go into the military. “He’s very remorseful – very freaked out,” Starks said. “He’s glad the person wasn’t hurt worse and wants to apologize – though he’s been advised not to talk to him. And he feels he deserves to be in juvenile hall.” Roseville’s Stan Switzer, attorney for Quinlan, requested a bail hearing Monday that was put off until Wednesday at the request of Deputy District Attorney Michael Paschon, who had just seen the request before the afternoon court session began. ”Sam’s been a part of the community just about all of his life,” Switzer said. “He’s a good student and involved in athletics. We’re looking forward to getting the police reports to understand more about the circumstances.”