|Hit-and-run arraignment postponed
Victim remains in coma; suspect recently suffered stroke and had prior DUI convictions in 1989, 2005
The arraignment of a Rohnert Park man suspected of a felony hit-and-run resulting in serious injuries to a bicyclist on Wednesday was postponed until Monday, June 18.
Wednesday’s hearing produced some surprising developments, such as the revelation Robert Ernest Cowart, 68, recently suffered a stroke and will be checked for an aneurysm in the very near future. Cowart was brought into the courtroom via wheelchair and appeared unsteady as his case was being discussed.
Also, it was revealed Cowart has three prior convictions for driving under the influence in 1989 and 2005. His defense attorney, George Boisseau, insists Cowart has been sober since 2005. Cowart was arrested and booked into Sonoma County Jail on June 8 when a pair of off-duty law enforcement officers became suspicious after seeing Cowart drive his damaged Dodge pickup truck into the driveway of his home.
The victim, retired Sonoma State University professor Steve Norwick, remained in critical condition and in a coma at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital as of Monday morning. The accident occurred at 8:37 a.m. Friday on Petaluma Hill Road near
According to a California Highway Patrol report, Cowart veered into the shoulder on Petaluma Hill Road and hit Norwick, an avid bicyclist who was riding to have coffee with friends in Penngrove. The report said Cowart drove away without checking on the Norwick’s condition, telling law enforcement officials he was late for work and didn’t believe Norwick was injured. Authorities said Cowart continued on his way and later stopped at a market in Penngrove for milk before heading to the drilling company he owns in Petaluma. Witnesses report Cowart
never decreased his speed after knocking Norwick off his bicycle and into a nearby ditch on East Railroad Avenue.
Cowart lives on the same street as the two off-duty officers – Sgt. Jeff Nicks of the RP Dept. of Public Safety and Officer Robert Powers of the California Highway Patrol, the lead agency in this case. Powers observed Cowart backing his pickup truck – which matched witnesses descriptions – into his driveway and saw the condition to the vehicle, which included a damaged front end and a sheared off right side view mirror.
A business in Penngrove also provided video footage showing the Dodge truck traveling south through town shortly after the collision.
Officer Powers and Sgt. Hicks engaged Cowart in a brief conversation, where he admitted to being involved in a collision with a bicyclist earlier that day.
The prosecutor had wanted the judge hearing the case to increase Cowart’s bail to $100,000, but the judge kept it at $30,000 on the conditions Cowart not drive, drink alcohol or use drugs not prescribed to him by a doctor. Cowart faces a possible jail sentence of one year and up to $10,000 in fines if convicted.