Judge Nareau will not hear Esqueda case

An apologetic Lassen County Superior Court Judge — Mark Nareau — recused himself from the Juan Ruiz Esqueda case during a 1 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15 hearing.

Esqueda faces vehicular manslaughter charges stemming from an Oct. 11, 2016 hit and run accident that killed Janesville teen Kolby Trumbull.

On Thursday, Feb. 15, the court was to hear motions filed by Autumn Paine, deputy public defender, to recuse the Lassen County District Attorney’s Office, seek a change of venue and consolidate the cases Esqueda faces.

Nareau said he had completely forgotten he and his wife made a contribution to a GoFundMe account in Trumbull’s name until someone mentioned it to him earlier in the day.

“I forgot all about it,” Nareau said about the donation he made 16 months ago. “It’s been a long time.”

According to the GoFundMe page, Nareau and his wife Tracy made a $150 contribution and posted the following message — “Our thoughts and prayers are with you. We are very sorry for your loss.”

Nareau said he was not a judge at the time he made the contribution — which he said he saw as “an opportunity to help” a family in need — but he said regardless of his intention at the time, he still must recuse himself. Nareau said he referred the case to the judicial council to appoint a new judge.

Still, Nareau said there were some “ministerial” things in the case he could deal with at the proceeding.

Without comment on the motions, Nareau scheduled a hearing on the defense’s motions to be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday, March 13.

He also said given the complexity of the case, he doubted if a four-day trial would be long enough. He said he thought the case could take a minimum of six days and maybe as many as 10.

The defense and the prosecution agreed setting four days for the trial might not be long enough.

So Nareau scheduled a six- to 10-day trial based upon the court’s “good faith estimate” of how long the trial might take.

He also ordered two full panels of jurors for the trial — 300 total — to make up the jury pool. The first group will arrive at 9 a.m. Monday, March 19 and the second at 12:30 p.m.

At the end of the proceeding, Nareau again apologized to everyone in the courtroom. He again said his contribution “necessitates” his recusal.

“It completely slipped my mind,” Nareau said.