Accused pedi-cab attacker makes unusual court appearance

FRESNO, Calif.

Action News was the first media outlet to report the allegedly intentional crash last week. But the arrest of Juan Anthony Estrada, Jr., came after a large outcry on Facebook from concerned neighbors.

Estrada turned himself in three days after our report aired last week, then came into court with an unusual approach to his case.

The 26-year-old is no stranger to the criminal justice system. His long list of previous charges includes a conviction last year for reckless driving and fleeing a peace officer.

At his first court appearance on new charges of assault with a deadly weapon, Estrada told the judge he wanted to act as his own attorney.

"Do you understand the allegations sir?" asked Judge Jon Nick Kapetan.

"Yes sir," Estrada answered.

"How do you plead?" the judge asked.

"Not guilty," Estrada replied after some prodding from the judge.

Estrada is accused of running down a pedi-cab in the Tower District on April 8.

Pedi-cab driver Jeff MacDonald is now walking with crutches. One of his three passengers suffered broken bones in her feet.

MacDonald reported the crime to police and on the Facebook group "Please Help Stop Crime in the Tower District".

Group founder Jay Parks started the page two years ago and it's become a sort of neighborhood watch.

"As we've hit critical mass on the page, things are happening like in real time," Parks said. "You know, somebody sees something and their first instinct is 'I'm going to put it up on the page so everyone else can look out.'"

Tips came in through Facebook and other means, and the clues led investigators to Estrada.

The charges he faces could land him in prison for ten years. And as he started to grasp how complicated the case could get, Estrada decided trying to fight the case alone was a bad idea.

"You know what?" he told the judge. "I just... You know, I think I just need an attorney."

"I think you're right," said Judge Kapetan.

The judge assigned a public defender to Estrada. He's due back in court next week.

You can check out the Facebook group at : http://www.facebook.com/groups/stoptowercrime

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