SANTA CRUZ -- A 62-year-old surfer and former attorney on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to a felony vandalism charge after he was accused of etching the paint of a stand-up paddleboarder's pickup near Pleasure Point.
Judge John Salazar ordered Donald Warren Darst back in court April 16 to set a preliminary hearing date for the vandalism, which authorities said was caught on a video March 16.
The pickup belongs to Santa Cruz County prosecutor Steve Drottar. To avoid a conflict of interest, Santa Cruz County District Attorney Bob Lee said the case would be handled by the state Attorney General's Office or an appointed prosecutor perhaps from Santa Clara County.
Darst faces up to three years in prison if convicted, according to court records.
"Mr. Darst has, to my knowledge, a completely unblemished prior record," said his defense attorney, Brian Worthington, outside court. "If there was any (criminal) conduct in this case, it would be completely outside Mr. Darst's character."
Darst appeared in court in a tan suit and is not in custody. He is not active with the California Bar Association but does consulting, Worthington said.
Drottar, a stand-up paddleboarder, surfer, and runner, has had his pickup keyed several times in part because of a larger clash between surfers and paddleboarders in the Pleasure Point area, authorities said.
A security camera captured images of the vandalism and the damages exceeded $3,000, deputies said.