By Kent Gray
Triplicate staff writer
The man accused of trying to run down an attorney with his truck said in court yesterday the charges against him are lies.
Daniel William Knottnerus took the stand in his own defense and denied the charges of assault with a deadly weapon, attempted robbery, making criminal threats, battery and violating a restraining order.
The man is lying ... I deny everything McElfresh says, said a slightly agitated Knottnerus about the allegations made against him by attorney Darren McElfresh.
The allegations stem from an incident that took place on Feb. 13, 2001, when McElfresh and Anthony Gaffke Jr., a resident of the area, were on Low Divide Road near the property of Lucille Castille, whom Knottnerus works for.
Castille lost a $119,000 civil judgment the year before in which McElfresh was the attorney for the other side. Knottnerus and Castille spotted McElfresh and Gaffke sitting in a truck on Low Divide and an altercation took place.
McElfresh and Gaffke claim Knottnerus threatened to kill them and made threatening motions to ram Gaffkes truck. Both vehicles drove away, but returned minutes later.
I did everything to avoid an accident, Knottnerus said about returning to the spot and finding McElfresh exiting Gaffkes truck. I couldnt (turn) to the right because a human being was there holding something; at the time I didnt know what it was. And right in front of me was a truck I was about to hit really fast.
Knottnerus claims he swerved to the left to avoid hitting both the truck and McElfresh and slid into a gravel pile.
Darren McElfresh was headed right for me, Knottnerus said. He was running right at my truck, adding I never saw him in front of my vehicle at any time.
McElfresh reiterated his court testimony yesterday, saying there was never any question about Knottnerus intentions, a person he referred to as a loose screw.
I was very frightened, McElfresh said. I thought he was going to mow me down with his truck.
Once Knottnerus left his truck and headed toward the attorney, he claimed the camera McElfresh was holding appeared to him to be a gun.
As soon as I reached the back of my truck, I saw a flash, Knottnerus said of the camera flash. I reached out and grabbed it ... it didnt feel like a gun.
McElfresh said Knottnerus tried to wrench the camera from him, which was attached to a strap wrapped around his wrist. Knottnerus said he let go of the camera shortly after determining what it was.
I didnt say a word to him, Knottnerus said, in response to assertions that he had made death threats. Knottnerus claimed he spoke only to Gaffke, asking him to not bring McElfresh back to the area.
(See Knottnerus, Page 3A)
Another discrepancy between the parties was whether or not McElfresh wore a coat that day.
Photographs in evidence, taken by Frank Villarreal at the Del Norte County Sheriffs Department, show McElfresh in dirt-spattered clothes. He maintains they got that way while dodging Knottnerus truck.
And an area on his white shirt supposedly indicates where Knottnerus grabbed McElfresh while they struggled for the camera. Knottnerus, Castille and two other defense witnesses claim McElfresh was wearing a dark coat or jacket that day. The insinuation is that the dirt marks on the shirt were faked.
District Attorney Robert Drossel and defense counsel John Babin are scheduled to make their closing arguments this morning at the Del Norte County courthouse.