On June 8th, Rohnert Park resident Robert Cowart crashed his pickup truck into bicyclist Steve Norwick, causing grave injuries to Norwick. Cowart fled from the scene of the crash -- Petaluma Hill Road at Railroad -- and later admitted to law enforcement that he had done so. Steve Norwick died from his injuries on Tuesday, June 19th. Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition is following the Robert Cowart case and will provide updates here.
November 28th update
Robert Cowart's attorneys today said that they are still trying to get Veterans Administration records for the past 5 years. The defense and the People agreed to request a status conference in the case, which was set for Decmeber 19th at 8:30 a.m. in courtroom 4. Judge Gary A. Medvigy said the most surprising thing in court today: in 2009, Cowart was told not to drive because of a medical condition, "but he did anyway, and somebody is dead," said Medvigy. The Judge also had big questions about Cowart's treatment through the VA; he said he was not aware of the VA ever providing treatment to restore competency to stand trial, and it is Cowart's competency that is currently in question. The Judge strongly reminded Cowart -- and his family -- that Cowart is not to drive.
November 26th update
Robert Cowart is scheduled to appear at 8:30 a.m. on November 28th in Courtroom 4 at the Sonoma County Superior Court for "further proceedings."
October 3rd Update
The court has received a second psychological evaluation of Robert Cowart, and his case remains on hold until the court can better understand his mental condition. The court's next step is to subpoena his records from the Veterans Administration. Read more here.
August 31st update
Robert Cowart appeared in courtroom 4 today at 8:30 a.m. There is some confusion about his doctor's report. He is set to be back in court on September 7th and 21st. Stay tuned for details.
August 22nd update
Cowart will be in court on Friday, August 24th at 8:30 a.m. with a doctor's report. Department 4.
Friday, July 20th update
Cowart was back in court today. The judge ordered further psyciatric evaluation. Read the Press Democrat coverage here.
Friday, July 13th update
Robert Cowart appeared in court today for what was to have been his preliminary hearing. However, the judge ordered Cowart to undergo a psychiatric evaluation within the week, and to return to court on July 20th at 8:30 a.m. for the preliminary hearing. He is charged with felony hit and run; the District Attorney has not yet revised the charges to vehicular manslaughter.
Wednesday, June 20th update on Robert Cowart case
Today we learned that Steve Norwick died on June 19th of the injuries he sustained when Robert Cowart crashed into Steve while he was riding his bicycle. We contacted the district attorney's office today to find out if and when the Prosecution plans to file an amended complaint against Cowart in light of the fact that Steve Norwick has died as a result of the crash. The DA's public information officer told us that the office will soon make an announcement about the matter. She also provided the case number, which is DAR-652475. You can get updates on the case anytime by using their Victim & Witness Criminal Case Lookup. The direct link to Cowart's case is http://da.sonoma-county.org/victim_witness_court_information.aspx?sid=1023&cas=DAR-652475&def=904185&cci=563164#Results. SCBC will continue to keep you posted.
Tuesday, June 19th update on Robert Cowart case
Cowart appeared in Department 4 this morning. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for August 16th at 9am, with an earlier appearance scheduled for July 13 at 8:30 am. The purpose of the July 13th hearing is unclear. Meanwhile, here's a nice piece in the PD about Steve Norwick. http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20120619/COMMUNITY/120619499
Monday, June 18th update on Robert Cowart case
Cowart appeared in court this morning for arraignment. The judge raised his bail to $50,000, and delayed his arraignment until 1:30 in the afternoon. The judge ordered Cowart to enter a plea by then, and said if Cowart hadn't posted bail by then, he would be kept in custody.
In the afternoon session, the judge noted that Cowart had posted the additional bail needed to keep him out of custody. Cowart entered a plea of "not guilty." His attorney requested that the case be moved to Department 4; the judge agreed and ordered Cowart to appear in courtroom 4 on Tuesday, June 19th at 8:30 a.m. to set his preliminary hearing. Moving to District 4 means that the case is now on a trial course. The preliminary hearing could be scheduled for many weeks down the road.
Update on Ride and Robert Cowart Arraignment
Fifty people rode from Courthouse Square to the Superior Court this morning in support of Steve Norwick. Thank you to everyone who showed up; your support was heart-warming, and made a strong impression.
Norwick remains in a coma after being run down on his bicycle last Friday by Robert Cowart, who has admitted to fleeing the scene.
About 15 of us sat in the courtroom for Cowart's arraignment. We were all surprised when Cowart's name was called and the man who approached the judge's stand could not do so without assistance. Cowart recently had a stroke and his attorney said he's later this week to be checked for aneurism. He clearly had trouble answering the judge's questions without assistance (we couldn't tell if he was confused or if it was difficult for him to hear or speak).
The prosecutor said that Cowart has 3 previous DUIs: 2 in 1989; one in 2005. Cowart's attorney asserted that Cowart has been sober since then.
The prosecutor wanted to increase Cowart's bail $100K; the judge kept the bail at $30K on the conditions that Cowart not drive, not drink alcohol or use drugs not prescribed to him by a doctor.
Cowart's arraignment is postponed until Monday, June 18th. He was wheeled out of the courtroom in a wheelchair.
One thing that is very clear is that Cowart is not fit to drive, and was probably not fit to drive last Friday either.
Even so, everyone who was in the courtroom with us agreed that Cowart's condition adds another layer of sadness to what is already a tragedy.
SCBC will continue to follow the case and keep you up to date. Please click the following links for coverage of the arraignment and our ride:
June 13th at 7:00 a.m., please join Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition and Santa Rosa Cycling Club for a short ride in support of Steve Norwick. We'll meet at 6:50 a.m. at Old Courthouse Square in Downtown Santa Rosa, and ride up Mendocino Ave
The ride is in support of Norwick, a just-retired Sonoma State University professor, and avid cyclist who remains in the hospital in a coma after being hit by Cowart's pick-up truck on Friday. After crashing into Norwick, Cowart fled the scene. We understand Steve's condition has not changed.
When we ride, we will ride respectfully, honoring all signals and the rules of the road. Tom Helm is our ride leader.
If you would like to ride, RSVP to Sandra@BikeSonoma.org. We need to get a handle on how many riders we'll have, so your RSVP is very important.
SCBC will provide secure bicycle parking in the parking lot just east of the north entrance to the courthouse (600 Administration Drive).
Steve's supporters are welcome to either:
a) Go inside the building to be present for the arraignment.
b) Stay outside and hold a sign in support of Steve Norwick.
c) Continue on to work or wherever you may need to be.
Whatever choice you make, please approach your actions from the point of view of supporting Steve Norwick. Our respectful and peaceful presence will make the right kind of impression.
If you choose to a) go inside for the hearing, please be aware of the following:
1. You will have to go through security at either the north or south entrance. This could take a full half hour of waiting in line. You may not take inside: any tools (bike tools, including CO2 canisters) or anything that can be used as a weapon, weapons themselves, food of any kind, water -- except in a sealed, never-opened bottle. Security recommends that you leave behind keys and other metal objects; your bag is subject to check, so you may want to leave it behind with your bike. You may carry your helmet into the courtroom, but you may not wear it or display it prominently.
2. There is a dress code, and a professional appearance is expected. Shorts are not allowed in the court, nor are hats or bicycle cleats. You may not wear anything with a printed message, and you may not display a sign in the courtroom.
3. The capacity of the courtroom is very small, and only a few people may be able to enter the courtroom. There is some standing room in the hallway. We need to be mindful that there will be others who need to be in the courtroom, both for this case and others.
4. We have no idea how long the hearing will take, and where on the docket Cowart will land. He might be at the beginning, the middle, or the end. That means there might be little, some, or a lot of waiting.
If you choose to b) stay outside and hold a sign, please bring a sign, in your handwriting, that reads "I SUPPORT STEVE NORWICK." Many signs sending a unified message will be the most powerful.
Remember to RSVP to Sandra@BikeSonoma.org.
Thank you for joining us tomorrow in support of Steve Norwick.