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Driver pleads not guilty in Sonoma crosswalk death

An 80-year-old Boyes Hot Springs man pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges that he killed a man riding a motorized scooter and fled the scene while driving on a suspended license.

Joe Kwai Lee is charged in the Nov. 7 crash that killed Alvin Heese, 93, of Sonoma, who was hit while crossing Fifth Street West.

Neither motorist had a valid license to drive.

Lee, who appeared in the Santa Rosa courtroom, had been free on $50,000 bail but was taken into custody when the judge increased the amount to $75,000.

Judge Robert LaForge set terms for his possible release to include that he not use, possess or drive a car.

"Do you understand that, Mr. Lee?" LaForge asked the elderly man, who listened with a court-supplied hearing device and sat in a wheelchair.

"Yes I do," he said.

Prosecutors expressed concern that Lee drove the day of the crash despite knowing his license was suspended. Lee told officers he had to get to a doctor's appointment, Deputy District Attorney Scott Jamar said.

Jamar asked that Lee be placed under the supervision of his adult children if he is released. Lee's lawyer, Kathleen Pozzi, called the request unfair since his sons live elsewhere in the Bay Area.

"It's the people's view that Mr. Lee is a danger to the public," Jamar said.


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