A new attorney has been appointed for the man accused of fatally shooting a tow truck driver.
After more than a year of attempting to represent himself, a convicted criminal accused of firing down a tow truck worker who was about to take away his vehicle near downtown Riverside was given an attorney on Friday.
In 2019, Javier Nieto Martinez, 36, of Riverside, was arrested and charged with murder in the death of Jesus Eligio Martinez Acosta, 27, of Colton.
Martinez confirmed during a confirmation of counsel hearing at the Riverside Hall of Justice that he no longer desired to represent himself pro se, and he accepted Riverside attorney Steven Sweigart’s appointment as his lawyer by Riverside County Superior Court Judge John Molloy.
Sweigart, who has been practicing law for more than 20 years, has represented clients in a number of homicide cases.
Martinez functioned as his own counsel from August 2020 to this month, including during a preliminary hearing in July. Prior to that, he was represented by a public defender.
Molloy met with the prosecution and defense to discuss a reasonable trial timetable, and both sides agreed to begin preparations in two months, prompting the judge to tentatively set a date for the trial to begin on May 9.
Martinez is being jailed at the Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta on a $1 million bail.
Martinez phoned Acosta soon after 1 p.m. on Oct. 7, 2019, and requested that his vehicle be moved from the 3700 block of Bandini Avenue to another area, according to Riverside police Officer Ryan Railsback.
Martinez became recalcitrant and “engaged the victim in an altercation” without provocation, according to Railsback, during the process of loading the defendant’s automobile onto the flatbed truck. Martinez allegedly pulled out a revolver and shot Acosta during the ensuing scuffle, according to the police spokesman.
Martinez fled northward after witnesses dialed 911.
Moments afterward, patrol police arrived on the scene and discovered the tow truck driver dead. Paramedics from the Riverside Fire Department tried to save Acosta’s life, but he died shortly after arriving at Riverside Community Hospital.
According to Railsback, cops began scanning the neighborhood with the help of K9 units, and Martinez was found less than 20 minutes later on Brentwood Avenue and Maplewood Place, about a half-mile from where the incident occurred. Without incident, he was apprehended.
The defendant had prior convictions for assault causing substantial bodily injury, domestic abuse, and felony vandalism, according to court records.
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