A Novato man accused of ramming an ice cream truck in a freeway robbery attempt could face up to five years in prison under charges filed Thursday, while a second suspect was released without charges.
Joseph Victor Denatale-Watson, 24, was arraigned on charges of assault with a deadly weapon, attempted robbery, reckless driving and hit-and-run driving, said Deputy District Attorney Linda Witong.
Denatale-Watson's bail was set at $250,000. A plea hearing is pending.
The alleged robbery attempt occurred Tuesday night on Highway 37 near the Petaluma River Bridge, when a self-employed ice cream vendor was driving his 1973 Chevy truck on eastbound Highway 37.
Police said a group of men in a green Mercury Sable approached and rammed
the ice cream truck three times, spinning it out and bringing it to a halt.
One witness, who declined to be named, said an occupant of the Mercury videotaped the event, and another occupant threw a bottle of beer at the ice cream truck.
After the vehicles pulled to the highway shoulder, several men emerged from the Sable and demanded money from the ice cream vendor, witnesses told the California Highway Patrol. But the bandits fled when a witness stopped and told them police had been notified and were on the way, the CHP said.
Late that night, Novato police stopped a green Mercury Sable to investigate whether the driver was intoxicated. When police checked the Mercury's license plate number with dispatchers, it matched the suspect
vehicle in the Highway 37 incident.
Denatale-Watson was arrested at the scene, as was a passenger, 18-year-old Shane Evan Maynard of Novato. The ice cream vendor identified the men as two of the three suspects who attacked him, the CHP said.
On Thursday, Maynard was released without charges after additional investigation established he did not participate in the attack, according to the district attorney's office.
The ice cream vendor was not injured in the incident.