A mangled Corvette that was involved in an early morning accident on Tunnel Road in Berkeley. Photo: Jacquelyn McCormick
A mangled Corvette that was involved in an early morning accident on Tunnel Road in Berkeley last June. Photo: Jacquelyn McCormick

An Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled Thursday afternoon that a young man from Tracy will face the charges against him after authorities say he crashed a Corvette on Tunnel Road in Berkeley last summer and put his friend in a coma.

Anthony Edward Torpey, 22, was charged by the Alameda County district attorney’s office with driving under the influence and causing a crash that resulted in injuries; driving with a .08% blood alcohol causing injury; leaving the scene of an accident; and attempting to dissuade a witness.

According to police, Torpey was identified as the driver of a vehicle that crashed June 20, 2014, into a concrete pillar, a tree and then a concrete wall on Tunnel Road, near Alvarado and The Uplands, “causing major head trauma” to his passenger. The passenger, identified in court papers as a friend of Torpey’s, was taken to Highland Hospital where he was found to be in a coma.

Police found Torpey .2 miles away from the crash, and wrote that he “exhibited objective signs of alcohol intoxication and failed to successfully complete several” field sobriety tests.

At the time of the crash, Torpey’s license had been suspended, and he was on probation for failing to stop after a prior crash that had caused property damage, according to court papers. Torpey had been arrested in December 2012 after a crash in Dublin, according to police records.

Torpey told police he had been drinking with family and friends at Pappy’s Grill & Sports Bar on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley prior to crashing the Corvette at 2:22 a.m. on Tunnel, according to court records.

Torpey had posted a photograph of a Corvette on his Facebook page about a week before the crash, identifying the vehicle as “My main girl” and writing that “Hard work pays off.” He wrote June 11, 2014, that he had only to install a new transmission in the car, and “then she’s ready.”

According to police, Torpey was not cooperative after his arrest, and spat on an officer during the booking process.

On July 23, he pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

Thursday, after a one-day preliminary hearing to determine whether Judge Victoria Kolakowski believed there was enough evidence against Torpey for the case to move forward, Kolakowski held Torpey to answer and bound the case over for trial. He continues to face all four charges.

Torpey is no longer in custody — though he was incarcerated until at least October — and will next will appear in court March 19 for arraignment at 9 a.m. in Department 11 at the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse in downtown Oakland.

According to a motion filed in July by Torpey’s attorney, Bob Waggener, Torpey’s passenger — who was 24 at that time — initially had been in a coma but “is now understood to be conscious and slowly recovering from his injuries.” The passenger, Justin Vance, suffered no broken bones as a result of the crash, Waggener wrote.

Waggener previously asked the court to drop one of the charges against Torpey, for dissuading a witness. He said police had asked Torpey if he wanted to write a note to Vance, and Torpey took them up on the offer.

“In the note, Mr. Torpey apologized to Mr. Vance, said he wanted to kill himself, and reportedly pleaded with Vance not to press charges,” wrote Waggener, in a motion asking the court to reduce his client’s bail. “While it is understood that charges are assumed to be true for bail purposes, the dissuading a witness charge seems a bit excessive. Mr. Torpey was in the hospital being treated for his own injuries, including being on pain medication, and he was invited to write a note to his friend that he knew was seriously injured. It is not a good thing that he said something in the note about not pressing charges, but it was also a note of apology going so far as to say that he felt so bad he wanted to kill himself. That is certainly not your classic dissuading a witness scenario. It was a piece of paper, not a direct communication, and certainly was not in any way threatening.”

According to court papers, Torpey grew up in the Bay Area. At the time of his arrest he was living in Tracy, but had previously lived in Dublin. He graduated from Valley High School in Dublin in 2010, and “has a solid history of employment” since graduation, wrote Waggener. At the time of his arrest he was working at Lucky Garden, an aquaponics and seed shop in Dublin, and had previously worked at Buffalo Wild Wings and Oil Changers, both in Dublin.

Four people wrote letters to support Torpey’s motion to ask for reduced bail.

In one, Jonathan Hamilton said, of a prior job held by Torpey, he “was always on time, ready to work — the first to volunteer to do the extra job or work the additional shift. He was never the type of kid to watch someone else work without throwing in a helping hand.”

Hamilton wrote that Torpey had not been “a big fan of school and the academic life,” but had devoted himself to hobbies: “As Tony entered early adulthood, he … became a car enthusiast.… As time went on, Tony could be found most days of the week in the garage tinkering with his cars or motorcycle.”

Hamilton continued: “The recent events that have brought me to write this letter have saddened me greatly. Tony is a kind heart with passion for working on and being around vehicles. It is particularly distressing as Tony is such a car enthusiast and is well aware of the dangers inherent in operating any vehicle. Although Tony has had some issues with traffic law in the past it has always been my hope that he would be able to follow his passion and help people such as myself who are less knowledgeable about home auto repair. To have brought harm to another person and endangered not only his life, but those around him has been a source of intense regret.”

Torpey’s uncle, Joe Torpey, said his nephew had struggled in the past but “just needs more people to believe in him so that he can truly become the person I know he can be.”

He continued, in his letter to the judge, “Anthony has made mistakes, and he is incredibly remorseful, and is willing to do whatever it takes to make reparations, financially and emotionally, if possible. But to do that, he needs you to give him an opportunity to get a second chance.”

Another family friend, Lynda Larsen, said Torpey had struggled to find his path: “Tony hasn’t seemed to figure what direction to go in life, he recently made some bad choices, I feel he needs some serious guidance & hope he will find it now.”

21-year-old arrested in felony hit-and-run car wreck (06.20.14)

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist of the Year...