Saratoga councilman and congressional candidate Rishi Kumar pleaded not guilty on Monday to a misdemeanor hit-and-run charge.
Kumar is due for a pretrial conference at 9am Dec. 3 in Department 84 at the Palo Alto branch of the Santa Clara County Superior Court. If convicted, the second-term councilman could spend up to six months in jail, pay up to a $1,000 fine—or both.
The low-speed three-car collision that prompted the criminal charge happened on Sept. 26 near Wolfe Road and Pruneridge Avenue in Cupertino, according to court records.
Police said that Kumar—who’s trying to unseat Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) in next year’s primary election—was driving his blue 2013 Tesla southbound on Wolfe Road when he rear-ended a BMX X3 that was stopped at a red light. The crash was apparently relatively minor—just slightly more impactful than a fender-bender. Kumar told police that he slowed to about 5mph before the hit. Still, it was reportedly strong enough to cause the BMW to lurch forward into a Subaru Outback.
Kumar told police that he reversed his Tesla when he got the chance and then pulled up to the passenger side of the car he just struck. The driver of the BMW acknowledged making eye contact with Kumar before motioning to indicate that he needed a minute to finish his 9-1-1 call. Kumar raised his hand in response, but the BMW driver told police he was unsure of what was meant by the gesture.
The BMW driver—whose car wouldn’t start after the run-in—told police that when Kumar began driving away he realized he was “not going to stop to exchange insurance information.” Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Deputy Lauren Romero reported finding Kumar a short time later traveling southbound on Miller Avenue toward Bollinger Road—about a mile-and-a-half away from the scene of the collision.
After Romero pulled him over, Kumar followed her back to the scene of the incident where officers said he told them that “he was driving very slow and believed there was no vehicle damage.” He told Romero that he only left the scene because he misinterpreted signals from the BMW driver.
Kumar said he planned to stop in a nearby Hilton Hotel parking lot to exchange information with the other driver and waved at the BMW to relay his intention. When the BMW driver motioned back, Kumar said he took that to mean that the other motorist “did not want to exchange information.”
No injuries were reported and all cars came away minimal damage. The other two drivers involved both told officers that they wanted Kumar to be prosecuted.
Kumar did not respond to requests for comment.