What really happened on the night of Oct. 8, 2010 at Los
Alisos and Marguerite, the Friday night when City Council Candidate Rick Sandzimier says he
was assaulted by a political opponent’s supporter?
Nearly three years after the 2010 Mission Viejo City Council election, two candidates are disputing what happened that night.
Sandzimier says the yellow, two-inch bruise that appeared on his upper right thigh the next morning confirms he was hit by an SUV driven by Joe Holtzman, supporter of then-candidate, now mayor Rhonda Reardon. Sandzimier is currently suing Holtzman.
Brian Skalsky says Sandzimier changed his story after the fact. And Skalsky says he widely circulated a police report confirming this.
Skalsky says he handed out copies of the police report to the Mission Viejo city clerk, local news organizations and others during the Aug. 19 council meeting because his reputation was hurt following the incident.
“For me it's just a matter of having the truth out there, the facts out there,” he said. “It was fighting for my reputation.”
Three days after the confrontation between Sandzimier and Holtzman, then-Mayor Trish Kelley sent an email that “Rick was intentionally hit by a car,” and that Skalsky “was also on the scene but did not stay to speak with the police.” Kelley's email came from her personal email account.
Kelley said she saw Sandzimier the weekend of the accident and he appeared sore and was limping.
Skalsky did not speak to police that night. He had nothing to tell them because seeing Holtzman and Sandzimier that night was “entirely a chance encounter,” he said.
Salsky spoke to Holtzman for about 30 seconds on the phone around the time of the incident, the candidate said.
He arrived at the scene with his campaign manager after police arrived, Skalsky said, adding that he was drawn by police lights and thought a rival may have been stealing campaign signs.
Sandzimier said he believed Skalsky or his campaign manager took photos or video of the alleged assault.
As part of his ongoing lawsuit against Holtzman, Sandzimier requested Skalsky’s testimony from that night. Skalsky, a lawyer, submitted a 72-page court filing in March asking not to give it. Judge Luis Rodriguez denied Skalsky's filing and ordered him to testify May 6.
Sandzimier challenged Skalsky to circulate his sworn deposition along with the police files he has already distributed.
Holtzman said Sandzimier was trespassing while posting campaign signs around 10:50 p.m., according to the police report. Holtzman declined to be interviewed for this story, citing the ongoing lawsuit.
Holtzman spotted Sandzimier driving up Marguerite toward Olympiad and Holtzman decided to follow him, according to the police report. After Sandzimier parked on Los Alisos, Holtzman told police he stopped behind the candidate and began honking his horn as Sandzimier hammered down campaign signs.
“You can’t put your sign there, it’s trespassing,” Holtzman yelled, according to the report.
Holtzman said Sandzimier walked toward the front of his SUV, swiped at the driver’s door with his hand and yelled, “You tried to hit me” before the candidate “toppled into (Holtzman’s) car.” Holtzman speculated that his headlights threw off Sandzimier’s depth perception.
Sandzimier was on his cell phone at the time speaking to an emergency dispatcher.
“I would like to call in a citizen’s arrest on a Mr. Joe Holtzman,” he told the dispatcher, according to the police report. “He’s hitting me right now, he just hit me, he just ran into me… he just hit me with his car.”
But Deputy Adewale Olukoju said the candidate denied being hit.
“I asked Sandzimier if Holtzman hit him with the moving SUV at anytime during the incident and he told me, ‘No,’” the deputy wrote. “Sandzimier also stated that he did not suffer any injury and did not need medical attention. Sandzimier signed a Private Person’s Arrest form and told me he wants Holtzman prosecuted for the assault.”
The deputy got this and other details wrong, Sandzimier said. He criticized the police work, saying law enforcement photos of the scene never appeared in the report.
“The incident happened,” he said. “I was shook up at the time when police officers questioned me. They asked me if I wanted to go to a hospital or call an ambulance. Why would they ask me… if they didn't think I was hurt? But I told them, ‘No, I'm probably just shook up. I'm a little shaky here.’”
About an hour after the confrontation, Sandzimier said he began to feel the effects of being hit. His arm "was feeling ‘tingly’" and his knee was "‘squishy,’” he told police four days later.
Sandzimier had checked himself into Mission Hospital within two hours of the confrontation, according to the police report.
“It was embarrassing, but I had to go through an investigation at the hospital,” he said.
The police report says Sandzimier was released with a possible muscle strain in the right arm and shoulder. He was told to treat it with ibuprofen and ice.
Around 8 the next morning Sandzimier called deputies to Barcelona Elementary to show them his bruise, which he said developed overnight. Later that day investigators met Sandzimier at his home to photograph the bruise, he said.
“There's a picture of it, it's in the police report,” he said. No photo is included in the report Skalsky distributed. Sandzimier declined to provide a photo, saying he did not want to further argue the ongoing case in public.
Skalsky said deputy Olukoju’s account confirms Sandzimier made up the assault.
"Sandzimier recanted his story under direct investigation,” Skalsky told the City Council.
In a later interview, Skalsky described the alleged assault as “a completely manufactured, political story.”
And it cost him votes, he said.
Read Sandzimier's original complaint here.
Read Holtzman's motion to strike here.
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