Crime

Friant man arraigned in his hospital bed

Clifford Darrell Finch, who is recovering from injuries suffered during a shootout with police, pleaded not guilty Monday to an attempted murder charge from inside a crowded hospital room that for about 10 minutes doubled as a courtroom.

Finch, 58, the father of Olympic snowboarder Andy Finch, also pleaded not guilty to evading police.

He was shot by officers last month at the end of a high-speed chase across north Fresno.

His attorney, public defender Ralph Torres, will ask Fresno County Superior Court Judge Rosendo Peña today to reduce Finch's bail from $2.25 million to between $25,000 and $50,000.

"He's not going anywhere. He's no danger to the community," Torres said.

Finch, owner of Cliff Finch's Topiary Zoo in Friant since 1981, is listed in fair condition at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno. His neck is in a brace, and he is paralyzed on his right side. He has limited use of his left hand and seven bullet wounds, Torres said.

Finch appeared coherent Monday during short conversations with Torres. His small hospital room was packed for an unusual arraignment.

Torres stood on one side of Finch's bed and Peña stood on the other. Prosecutor Jim Sanderson was at the foot of his bed. A court reporter recorded the proceedings from a corner of the room. Two Fresno County sheriff's deputies also monitored the hearing.

Finch's wife, Joanie, and son, Andy, watched from the doorway.

On Sept. 24, Fresno police say Finch was on his way to the home of his wife when police attempted to intercept him. Joanie Finch had obtained an emergency protective order against him.

Officers tried to stop Clifford Finch near Herndon and Cedar avenues, but he fled west on Herndon, running red lights and clipping a car at the Blackstone intersection before police forced him off the road near Highway 99.

Finch then fired a handgun at them, police said. Four officers returned fire.

Finch's family have said they believe he was suffering a flashback to his days in Vietnam, a condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder.

After the arraignment, Joanie Finch said: "I love my husband very much."

Andy Finch also expressed support.

"We're here to help with whatever we can for him," he said.

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