$2 Million Bail for Frat Row Murder Suspect

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday February 04, 2009 - 06:41:00 PM

Acknowledging that Andrew Hoeft-Edenfield, charged with murdering UC Berkeley graduate Chris Wootton in May posed a threat to the community and a flight risk, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson set his bail at $2 million Monday.  

Jacobson explained that the excessive amount would guarantee that family and friends who raised it would ensure that the defendant showed up at his pre-trial hearing in two weeks.  

The judge also ordered Hoeft-Edenfield, who lives on San Pablo Avenue in West Berkeley with his mother Eileen, to stay 300 feet away from UC Berkeley and its fraternities and sororities, in light of the fact that the very actions that had put him behind bars had started from a frat row fight last May.  

Hoeft-Edenfield’s private attorney, Yolanda Hwang, asked the judge to set bail at $60,000, explaining that anything higher than that would make it unaffordable for Hoeft-Edenfield’s mother, who was employed at a nonprofit, and his father, a construction worker.  

She added that his parents did not own any property, saying that “if he posts bond it would be because of the faith and support of the community.”  

Alameda County deputy district attorney Stacie Pettigrew requested the judge to set bail at $3 million.  

Hoeft-Edenfield was denied his previous request for bail on Aug. 25 after Jacobson ruled that there wasn’t substantial evidence presented to prove that he had acted in self-defense, as his lawyer asserted in court documents.  

“After reading the police report, my presumption is there is a substantial amount of evidence that he is guilty of the offense charged,” he said. “Evidence available in the case supports first-degree murder, so I have to keep the charge of murder in mind. The maximum potential [sentence for the] charges may be 26 years to life—that’s a factor that shows that his incentive to flee is great.”  

Jacobson then asked Hwang about the defendant’s proximity to the UC Berkeley campus from where he lives in Berkeley, to which she replied two and a half miles.  

“I have some concerns that if the defendant is free and makes his way around Berkeley, he may encounter young men again and may pose a threat,” he said. “I am to consider potential danger to others.”  

Jacobson also noted, however, that Hoeft-Edenfield did not have a prior criminal record.  

“I know that he has spent his entire life in Berkeley, has family and friends here, has gone to school here and has significant attachment to the community,” he said.  

Hwang informed the judge that Hoeft-Edenfield had been admitted to an outreach program in the sheriff’s department but said that she was unable to produce the letter in the courtroom that afternoon.  

Hoeft-Edenfield’s mother and his friends—a few from Berkeley City College, where he was a student—were present in the courtroom during the bail hearing at 2:30 p.m. along with a group of 10 to 12 supporters, mostly friends and family, of Wootton.  

Jacobson said that there was enough evidence at this point to have Hoeft-Edenfield locked away for “many many years.”  

“Looks to me like people have a lot of evidence,” he said. “If the jury finds him guilty of manslaughter, the possibility of significant incarceration is real.”  

Jacobson said that Hoeft-Edenfield had given three different versions of the incident to investigators at the police station, the first two being “two rather-difficult-to- believe versions,” and the final one leading to the self-defense story.  

He said that the defendant had lied to one of his friends while talking to him on a cell phone, denying involvement in the incident.  

After stating his concerns, Jacobson set the $2 million bail and also ordered Hoeft-Edenfield to stay away from drugs and alcohol and restaurants and bars that serve alcohol, warned him against carrying any dangerous weapons or firearms and restricted his use of knives to cutlery.