The CEO of neighborhood social media site NextDoor pleaded not guilty Tuesday morning to felony hit-and-run for leaving the scene of an accident by another driver he allegedly caused while unsafely changing lanes on Highway 101 last summer.
Nirav Nalin Tolia, 42, of San Francisco appeared in San Mateo County Superior Court with attorney Daniel Barton to enter his plea to the single felony. He also waived his right to a speedy trial and was scheduled for a preliminary hearing July 22.
Approximately two weeks ago, the District Attorney’s Office decided to charge Tolia in the Aug. 4, 2013, Brisbane incident that left Patrice Motley with broken bones in her left hand and neck and back injuries.
Prosecutors say Tolia was cooperative with police but charged him with a felony rather than a misdemeanor because the hit-and-run involved injury, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti.
Tolia’s SUV did not strike the woman’s Honda Del Sol but prosecutors say he caused her to spin out of control 180 degrees across two lanes of northbound Highway 101 traffic and into the concrete center divider while trying to avoid his lane change just south of the Candlestick off-ramp. Tolia did not stop and continued to his San Francisco home. Police used witness accounts of Tolia’s license plate to track him the following day.
The law requires a driver to remain at the scene of an accident. If Tolia is convicted of not doing so, he faces up to three years in prison.
Motley also filed a civil lawsuit earlier this month against Tolia seeking damages for negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Motley claims in the suit that Tolia, driving with his wife and child, was a “impatient to overtake a slower vehicle in front of him” when he tried moving into the right lane where she was. Motley honked her horn and Tolia’s wife alerted him to the impending collision which made him get back into his own lane, but the chain of events had already started, the suit stated.
Motley claims Tolia and his wife saw her lose control of the car but fled without stopping to see if she, her passenger or her dog were injured or deceased. Tolia told police he fled because he was “shaken” and didn’t call 911 because he was in “shock,” the Motley suit stated.
Tolia has no criminal record and remains free from custody on his own recognizance. He is due back in court June 12 for a review conference.
He is CEO of NextDoor, a website used by police agencies and neighborhoods to help users connect with each other.
Barton did not return a call for comment.
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