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Livermore Man Pleads Not Guilty to Murder Charge in Road Rage Case

Attorney representing Cort Holbrook says charge filed by district attorney is out of line and stabbing was a "justifiable homicide."

A Livermore man this morning pleaded not guilty to a murder charge stemming from a that left a .

Cort Holbrook, 41, appeared in Dept. 701 of the Gale-Schenone Hall of Justice in Pleasanton. Moments before his plea, Holbrook met with his attorney, Eric Schweitzer, and was seen wiping away tears.

"It's emotional," Schweitzer said in an interview after the plea. "People who survive serious car accidents where another person dies feel remorse. And (Cort) survived."

Schweitzer said the charges filed by the district attorney are outrageous.

"The district attorney is out of line for these charges under these circumstances," Schweitzer said.

He also said Holbrook was not the aggressor in the March 9 incident and that the stabbing was in self defense.

"The alleged victim brutally attacked Cort for no good reason," Schweitzer said. "It's a justifiable homicide."

Holbrook, a software engineer, is described by Schweitzer to be a decent, upstanding citizen.

He also reacted as any reasonable person would when confronted with immediate danger, Schweitzer said.

Slain was 48-year-old Ricky Ziesmer.

Roshell Morgan, Ziesmer's girlfriend, was in the car with him before the fight. She said in an earlier interview that Holbrook began honking at them when they merged into another lane on First Street in Livermore.

"The guy started honking and yelling at us and saying we cut him off," Morgan said.

Ziesmer, who was driving a gold Chevrolet Cavalier, and Holbrook, who was driving a Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, continued to exchange words and eventually  both pulled off into a parking lot on Old First Street downtown near the and .

The two began to fight, and Holbrook pulled out a knife, Morgan said.

I saw that Ricky was hurt and I yelled at (Holbrook), 'You stabbed him?' " she said. "He said 'That's right I stabbed him. He hit me.' "

A filed in court by shows Holbrook said Ziesmer started the incident by drifting into his lane several times and nearly colliding with him before punching him several times when they got out of their cars and started arguing.

Holbrook told investigators that when the two men were stopped in adjacent lanes at a light, he "flipped off" Ziesmer and asked him "why he was driving like a d---."

According to the statement, Holbrook said the two men cursed at each other, and Ziesmer threatened to harm him and said, "I have no problem putting you down."

Ziesmer punched Holbrook in the face twice, knocking him to the ground, according to the statement.

As the confrontation continued, Holbrook reached into his driver's door compartment, retrieved a dagger and stabbed Ziesmer in the upper chest and also stabbed the driver's side rear door of Ziesmer's car to prevent him from leaving.

Ziesmer got back into his vehicle and went to  on East Stanley Boulevard in Livermore.

The health center does not offer emergency services, which are based at ValleyCare's Pleasanton facility.

Ziesmer was transferred to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, a higher level trauma center, where he later died.

A woman who identified herself as Ziesmer's mother, Marylin, left the following comment in a previous :

Ricky was a wonderful son, and it was a true blessing to be his mother. He was a guy with a huge heart and always wearing a beautiful smile. Regardless of the situation he was always there to help anyone, even willing to give a stranger the shirt off of his back...My heart goes out to the family of the man who did this (to) my son. Two families are now suffering a horrible and tragic loss.

Schweitzer said he is awaiting toxicology reports.

Holbrook is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing at 9 a.m. April 22 in Dept. 703 of the Gale-Schenone Hall of Justice in Pleasanton.

He is being held without bail at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.

— Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

Nadja Adolf April 05, 2011 at 08:01 PM
One life ended; another ended for all useful purposes. Rules for survival - don't get annoyed with people who drive aggressively or erratically and give them an excuse for directing their rage at you. If you encounter a Mr. Ziesmer just let him go and don't engage him; if he insists on engaging you, drive to the nearest police station or patrol car and let them take care of it.

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