Caught on film
DA’s Office files charges in farmers’ market assault after reviewing surveillance tape
Back on Feb. 27, former Chico City Councilman David Guzzetti told police he’d been physically assaulted after an apparent case of road rage. Three months later, the Butte County District Attorney’s Office has filed misdemeanor battery charges against Guzzetti’s alleged attacker, Donald Edward Garden.
On that fateful Saturday morning, as the CN&R chronicled in its March 11 issue, Guzzetti said he was in his vehicle near the downtown Saturday Farmers Market, waiting for a car to exit a parking space. But very quickly the driver in the vehicle behind him, he said, started honking his horn and yelling. The apparently impatient driver then pulled his car aggressively around the idling Guzzetti and saluted him with an obscene gesture.
After parking his vehicle, Guzzetti said he spotted the man using the ATM at Sierra Central Credit Union across the street from the market. He approached his alleged attacker, whom he did not know, to ask why the man was so upset.
That, Guzzetti said, led to a verbal tirade.
“He turned and said, ‘I know who you are!’ ” Guzzetti recalled. “You’re Mr. fuckin’ environment, Mr. fuckin’ community man and city councilman!”
Guzzetti said he took that reaction as a hint to leave.
“I didn’t want any part of that,” he said. “I turned to walk away with my hands in my pockets.”
Guzzetti said he was grabbed from behind and slammed to the concrete curb in the parking lot. He said a witness pleaded with the man, asking him why he was doing this.
The witness later told police she saw the men scuffling on the sidewalk, but didn’t see what sparked the confrontation.
Guzzetti reported the incident to Chico police. His alleged assailant was identified as Garden, who soon after gave his statement to the police, saying he had merely put his hand on Guzzetti’s shoulder just before the men lost their balance and fell to the pavement.
Because the incident happened near an ATM, there was the accompanying surveillance camera capturing the action in the immediate environment. Police requested the videotape and then turned it over to the DA’s Office. As it turns out, apparently, the camera caught the entire incident and the action recorded is closer to Guzzetti’s version of events than to Garden’s.
“Both Mr. Guzzetti and Mr. Garden gave statements that conflicted with one another,” explained Deputy District Attorney Jeff Greeson. “The police had asked for the video, but until we saw it we couldn’t really move forward. Once we saw the video it was determined the statement provided by Mr. Guzzeitti was more consistent.”
The incident first came to light after a friend of Guzzetti’s called the Chico Enterprise-Record, which did a story quoting only him. That in turn led to a scathing series of online comments, some questioning the veracity of Guzzetti’s account, while others accused him of panhandling, cross-dressing and downright whining.
One comment even said that whoever attacked Guzzetti should be considered a “hero.”
And so it went.
During his two stints on the council, from 1981 to 1985 and then from 1988 to 2000, Guzzetti made some enemies. He seldom shied away from speaking his mind.
Once during a council meeting he called a growth-friendly colleague “a lapdog for developers.” Another time, during a particularly surly debate, Guzzetti said something to cause an otherwise low-keyed councilman, the late Bill Johnston, to turn and say, “David, I’ll go toe-to-toe with you any time!”
And he wasn’t suggesting that they dance.
Apparently Guzzetti’s hair-trigger temper, so often aired at council meetings or published in the daily paper’s account the next morning, has not been forgotten in the decade since he stepped down as a council member. And that infamous temper led many to believe Guzzetti must have had more to do with the incident than he was letting on.
The accused in this case, Garden, is reportedly a licensed family and marriage counselor living in Chico and working in Oroville. He was a bartender at LaSalles on Broadway in the late 1980s, when it was more of a fern-bar restaurant and attracted an older, after-work crowd of local attorneys, judges and other professionals who called themselves “the west-enders.”
That crowd, what’s left of it, has since moved on to Duffy’s Tavern, and Garden has moved onto being a counselor.
When asked about a month ago about the incident, Garden played it down and said it was no big deal.
For his part, Guzzetti said he didn’t necessarily want the matter to come to this and certainly didn’t want the public’s attention.
“The only thing I did, through the press and the police, was to make an offer of mediation with no charges being filed if he apologized, but he refused and continued to tell untruths to the law enforcement officers,” Guzzetti said. “I had no recourse. I’m happy the video apparently substantiated my story, that I never used profanity, that I didn’t want any part of it.”
Garden has been sent a notice to appear in court on June 9, in front of newly appointed Butte County Superior Court Judge Michael Candela.