Man pleads not guilty in El Pollo Loco assault case

ST. GEORGE – A man pleaded not guilty to aggravated assault Monday after a judge ruled there was enough evidence for his case to move forward to trial.

Cody Sandberg, 35, was in 5th District Court for a preliminary hearing connected to an alleged assault that occurred near the El Pollo Loco restaurant in Washington City on June 19, 2014. Gary Pendleton, Sandberg’s attorney, argued there wasn’t enough evidence supporting the third-degree felony charge the state was seeking against his client.

Judge John J. Walton, however, ruled there was enough evidence from the state supporting the charge and scheduled a trial for April 13. Rather than wait on an arraignment hearing to enter a plea, Sandberg went ahead and entered a not guilty plea after Walton’s ruling.

Cody Wayne Sandberg of Washington, Utah | Photo courtesy of Washington County Sheriff’s booking, St. George News
Cody Wayne Sandberg, booking photo posted June 21, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Sandberg was originally charged with misdemeanor simple assault following his arrest on June 23, 2014. His arrest resulted from a social media appeal made by the Washington City Police Department asking for information concerning the June 19 incident.

According to court documents, on the afternoon of June 19, 2014, a verbal argument led to a physical altercation between Sandberg and the alleged victim in the parking lot of El Pollo Loco, 775 W. Telegraph St. in Washington City. During the exchange, Sandberg allegedly punched the other man in the face and knocked him unconscious. The victim sustained additional injuries to the rear of his head when he hit the ground, which caused internal bleeding.

“My memory of it is very, very vague,” Eric Clay, the victim in the case, said.

Clay testified that he had spent three days in the intensive care unit at Dixie Regional Medical Center following the incident.

Clay said he couldn’t recall details surrounding the argument and resulting altercation between himself and Sandberg, which others told police they had witnessed. He said he did remember being behind a black minivan that had a “Desert Hills Thunder” sticker on the back while at the drive-thru. Something had been thrown out one of the windows of the minivan, Clay said, and he recalled saying something to the clerk about it when it was his turn at the window.

Beyond that point, Clay said, he doesn’t remember what happened, nor was he able to positively identify Sandberg as the person who allegedly hit him.

According to witness statements gathered by the Washington City Police, Clay got out of his pickup truck and Sandberg got out of the passenger side of the minivan, Washington City Police Officer Robb Radley said during his testimony. An argument ensued between the two that appeared to have been triggered by someone throwing orange peels out of a minivan window while at the drive-thru. Both parties got back in their respective vehicles and got their food, then both parked in the parking lot.

Clay parked his truck and started walking toward the spot where the minivan had just parked, Sean Price, a witness to the incident, said. As Clay approached the minivan, Price watched as the driver and passenger got out, noting the passenger appeared to have a white T-shirt wrapped around one of his hands.

Believing a fight was about to take place, Price said he got out of his car and was making his way through the parking lot to intervene. However, the minivan and its occupants had departed by that point and Clay was unconscious on the ground. Price subsequently called 911.

While investigating the incident, Radley said, Washington City Police put out a social media bulletin asking the public for help in finding the suspect minivan in the assault case. Tips gathered from the bulletin led police to Sandberg.

Sandberg was taken into custody without incident and remained quiet during transport to the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility. After making a comment about whether or not the altercation could have been a “mutual combat” situation, Radley said, Sandberg remained silent a short while longer, then started talking.

Sandberg’s story, as recounted by Radley, echoed much of what witnesses had seen. Sandberg said he and Clay were yelling at each other in the drive-thru, then another argument in the parking ended with Sandberg hitting him, Radley said.

Following the incident, Sandberg was charged with misdemeanor simple assault. That was bumped up to felony aggravated assault due to the severity of the injuries the victim experienced, Radley said.

Pendleton argued the charge should have remained a simple assault because the evidence did not support the elevated charge the state had slapped on his client. No weapons were involved and there was no evidence Sandberg meant to cause serious bodily injury, he said.

The class A misdemeanor charge would carry a maximum sentence of one year in jail, while the third-degree felony charge can carry a sentence of up to five years in prison.

Despite Pendleton’s argument, Walton ruled the case could proceed to trial with the aggravated assault charge intact.

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Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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  • ladybugavenger February 23, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    Dang orange peel litterers. Omg, would this have happened if the orange peel stayed in the car?

  • GROANATTACK February 23, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    Should of gone through the drive thru in a cab its safer and cheaper than having to bail out

  • munchie February 23, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    Maybe the charge should be “assault with a deadly t-shirt”

  • Jon R Cocktoasten February 24, 2015 at 7:32 am

    This dude has been a loser and menace to society in Southern Utah for so long!!! It;s about time he goes away from a while!

  • fun bag February 25, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    I bet that somewhere there is a mexican cholo gangbanger named “el pollo loco”

  • Moveback7spaces February 25, 2015 at 5:46 pm

    Whatever you say Koolaid I’m sure there is some twit named Koolaid using the the name el dummo koolaid

  • sagemoon February 26, 2015 at 8:25 am

    I’m sure both of these men’s children are so proud of their daddies. Nothing says cool dad like a parking lot brawl.

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