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Elder assault case will go to trial

Preliminary hearing finds sufficient evidence for four felonies, six misdemeanors
By: Andrew Westrope, Staff Writer
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Following a preliminary hearing in Auburn on Tuesday, Rocklin resident Zubin Bogdanoff was held to answer for four felonies and six misdemeanors, including the assault of 84-year-old Eugene Royer on Nov. 10, 2012.

Bogdanoff, 33, was arrested in November as a suspect in an attack that left Royer in critical condition at Sutter Roseville Medical Center. In Bogdanoff’s arraignment later that month, authorities said he had followed Royer home for driving too slow on Bridal Veil Drive, confronted the victim in his garage and proceeded to punch and kick him. Bogdanoff’s father told the court his son suffered from bipolar disorder.

At Tuesday’s hearing, prosecutor Andrew Braden and defense attorney Tim Woodall questioned Royer and three Rocklin police officers on the details of the incident to debate whether the court had sufficient grounds for the charges.

Royer said he could not identify the suspect, as he had blacked out during the attack.

Royer told the court he was driving home from an errand before 10 a.m. when he noticed a car following him and slowed to let it pass, though it never tried to do so. Once parked outside his garage, Royer recalled turning around to find a large man coming up the driveway and yelling indiscernibly.

“I think he was uttering urgent, bad words,” Royer said. “I didn’t understand.”

He added that the advancing stranger was also waving something in his hand, something that appeared larger than a phone, though Royer could not be sure what it was. He could not remember the man’s face or anything after that.

Since the incident, Royer has experienced cognitive, speech and memory problems.

“I can’t speak plainly. I can’t speak without problems. A lot of times, I have trouble following the verb,” he said. “I didn’t have these kinds of problems before the attack.”

Responding to a 911 call placed by Bogdanoff, Officer Jeff Paxton recalled finding Royer in a pool of blood in his garage, near the front of his parked vehicle and surrounded by neighbors. Another Rocklin officer, Jonas Wilks, said Bogdanoff had called 911 to report the victim for being an unsafe driver, then indicated police response was no longer necessary because he had taken care of it. Wilks thought he heard the sounds of an assault taking place in the background, with a victim calling for help.

Paxton said Patrick Zan, one of the only neighbors who claimed to have seen what happened, described a large man of about 300 pounds, standing 6 foot, 1 inch, punching Royer in the face in Royer’s garage, then kicking him when he fell to the concrete floor.

One of Royer’s doctors at Sutter, Jon Perlstein, later told Paxton that Royer had suffered a traumatic brain injury that would result in mild speech problems.

According to Paxton, other neighbors who were drawn by the noise said they had to flee the road when the suspect got into a vehicle, drove up the street, made a U-turn and sped away.

“(Zan) said people had to jump out of the way as the car got out of the neighborhood,” Paxton said.

He also said Zan and other witnesses remembered the suspect assaulting a neighbor, Darrell Lewis, who tried to intervene.

Lewis did not appear in court on Tuesday, but Wilks had spoken with him and shared his story. Wilks said Lewis reported approaching Bogdanoff in the middle of the assault, and that Bogdanoff turned on him with a “crazy” expression on his face, like a “wild stare,” before punching Lewis in the face and shoving him to the ground. Wilks said Lewis reported kicking Bogdanoff in defense before being dragged by the leg into the street by him. It was allegedly Bogdanoff’s last act before retreating to his vehicle.

Officer Tina Mueller, who found Bogdanoff driving the suspect’s vehicle shortly after the incident, said Bogdanoff calmly denied that he had been involved in any physical or verbal altercation, or that he had been on Bridal Veil Drive at all, until she asked why witnesses would have attested otherwise. She said his demeanor quickly changed as he replied, “Because they’re all ***holes,” and proceeded to call her profanities. He was arrested after Paxton brought witnesses to identify him.

In Bogdanoff’s defense, Woodall played a recording of the suspect’s call to 911 as evidence that he was mentally unbalanced at the time of the incident. The recording begins with a request for police officers.

“There’s a gentleman who appears to be very elderly. I do not think he is qualified to drive,” he says. “I think you should send some police officers to check him out.”

Bogdanoff tells the 911 operator the victim was “yelling” and “screaming” at him, then his voice escalates and becomes unclear. Cries for help, allegedly coming from Royer, are audible in the background.

Woodall contested some of the charges on the grounds that his client was exhibiting odd and fluctuating behavior, and was therefore mentally unsound at the time. He also suggested there was not sufficient evidence to prove assault was the suspect’s original intent.

“He got upset over incidents that a normally functioning individual wouldn’t get upset about,” he said. “It’s hard to understand why anybody who intended to commit an assault would place the call.”

Regardless, Judge Trilla Bahrke upheld four felony charges against Bogdanoff related to the incident, including cruelty to a dependent adult, assault by means of force likely to cause great bodily harm, first degree residential burglary with intent to commit a felony and assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm (his vehicle). She upheld six more undisputed misdemeanor charges of battery and disturbing the peace related to a prior incident in a Roseville supermarket.

Bogdanoff is scheduled to appear in court in Auburn at 8:30 a.m. April 15.

Reach Andrew Westrope at andreww@goldcountrymedia.com.