FREMONT -- A Union City man pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges he hit a woman with his car as she pushed her daughter in a stroller on a city sidewalk last month.

Joseph Ansari, 21, is also charged with participating in a speed contest causing great bodily injury, according to documents filed in Alameda County Superior Court.

Ansari appeared in the courtroom of Judge Dennis J. McLaughlin at the Fremont Hall of Justice, beside his newly retained attorney Hugh Anthony Levine. The public defender's office had previously been appointed in the care. Levine, a San Francisco-based lawyer, announced he is now representing Ansari and that his client would plead not guilty to the two felony counts.

McLaughlin set a pretrial hearing on the case for Oct. 4.

Prosecutors say Ansari was speeding away from another motorist when he struck the mother about 11 a.m. July 18 as she pushed her baby daughter in a stroller and her young son walked beside her on a Centerville district sidewalk.

The 43-year-old woman suffered a concussion, a broken nose and cuts to her face and arms. She was hospitalized at Eden Hospital in Castro Valley and later released. Her 1-year-old daughter was treated for a head injury at Children's Hospital in Oakland. The woman's 4-year-old son was not seriously injured.

Police said Ansari was driving a 2000 white Nissan Maxima and waiting at a red light when the encounter occurred that would lead the to crash.


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Ansari told police he was waiting for the light on Peralta Boulevard, just west of Paseo Padre Parkway, when another driver, identified as John Fantazia, sped by him.

"Ansari said this made him angry for some reason and he stomped on the gas and sped away from the limit line," according to court documents. Ansari told police his car reached a speed of 65 mph in the area of Peralta Boulevard and Camden Street as he followed Fantazia, who was traveling at about the same speed in front of him.

The speed limit along that stretch is 35 mph, police said.

At one point, Ansari told officers, he passed Fantazia and that Fantazia slowed down significantly, the complaint states.

Ansari said he realized he was going too fast to make an upcoming turn in the roadway so he slammed on his brakes, which locked up, according to the complaint. His car started to spin, slid sidewalks and hit a traffic light pole.

"Ansari said he saw at least two pedestrians after he hit the light pole and realized he'd hit at least one of them," the complaint states.

Ansari told officers that when he got out of his car, he saw a female lying underneath it and pulled her out.

Court papers say that the woman does not remember the impact, but she did remember standing on the corner of Fremont and Peralta boulevards with her children before the collision. She told police the family was headed across Fremont Boulevard to go to church on Hansen Avenue.

"The next thing she remembers is waking up in the hospital and several doctors standing over her," court documents state.

Ansari was treated at a Washington Township Hospital in Fremont for minor injuries, then arrested and taken to Santa Rita Jail.

He posted bail and was released the next day.

Contact Natalie Neysa Alund at 510-293-2469. Follow her at Twitter.com/ nataliealund.