SARATOGA -- His sentence two years ago for a notorious 2009 hit-and run, which left a bicyclist permanently disabled and involved a cover-up, took away his driver's license permanently.
But soon after Robert Schiro got out of prison in January, the documented alcoholic and repeat DUI offender was reportedly seen at local watering holes and driving around town. It stirred confusion and frustration among residents and business owners alike as he carried on and avoided police attention.
That was until one evening last month, when authorities say Schiro drank to the point of falling over at a downtown Saratoga bar, ignored pleas for him to take a cab and got into his SUV. He smashed into a parked vehicle on his way out, then rammed through the wrought-iron gate at his own house, leaving the license plate entangled in the remnants of the felled barrier.
Deputies found his white Cadillac Escalade a few yards away, tires flattened. When Schiro came out front to meet them, he blamed his girlfriend for the wreck, according to a police report. When he was confronted with witness accounts that it was him, he changed his attitude.
"Dammit, you got me," he said, according to the report.
On Tuesday, the 74-year-old businessman was back in court then to answer for the June 25 episode that resulted in misdemeanor charges of DUI, hit-and-run and driving without a license. After the brief hearing in front of Judge David A. Cena, Schiro was sent back to the Santa Clara County jail, where he is expected to stay at least until a bail hearing at the end of the month.
He also faces legal consequences because his arrest violates the probation he agreed to when he was released halfway through a three-year prison term.
It's been a long, frustrating road for the law enforcement system and Schiro: At the time of the 2009 hit-and-run, he was already on probation for an earlier DUI conviction. At the end of his trial in 2012, the judge denounced him for his lack of remorse and denial of responsibility.
On Tuesday, the victim in the hit-and-run case, 29-year-old Ashley Nelson, was stunned at the idea that Schiro had returned to form.
"I thought prison would help him, but he's back out and doing it again," Nelson said after Schiro's court appearance Tuesday. "He's been laughing at the court system. Something needs to happen, and hopefully it starts to change with this."
Neither Schiro's attorney nor the handful of people who showed up to court on his behalf Tuesday would offer comment.
Nelson, a former competitive cyclist, is raising two young children while enduring the effects of the April 19, 2009, crash near Highway 9 and Fruitvale Avenue, which inflicted permanent brain damage, palsy to the left side of her body and significant damage to her vision. Schiro was not immediately suspected because he covered up the crash by hiding his silver BMW for a year, then asking a mechanic to secretly repair the damage from the collision. But that mechanic ended up testifying against him.
She hopes the latest instance with Schiro shines light on the deficiencies that allowed him to get behind the wheel again.
"His weapon of choice is a car, but they can't take that away from him. They can take away his driving, but he can still access vehicles," she said. "It's not about me anymore, it's about drunk drivers and what our system needs to do. What's next, a little boy on the street?"
On the evening of June 25, witnesses and the police report contend that he drank heavily in one bar before entering a restaurant where staff recognized him, refused to serve him and started to call for a taxi. But before that call could be made, Schiro reportedly walked out, "stumbling and falling over another car" that wasn't his before he got into his SUV.
A witness followed after him and yelled at him to stop driving, but he instead literally smashed his way home.
That led to the encounter with deputies out front. As in the 2009 case, he tried to convince deputies that his girlfriend had been driving.
When they reminded him that he was no longer allowed to drive, Schiro reportedly answered, "I'm stupid."
The report also says Schiro tested their credulity by claiming he had never been arrested before. The deputies then told him about his previous DUI and hit-and-run convictions, which, deputies attest, prompted a response of, "Oh yeah."
Contact Robert Salonga at 408-920-5002. Follow him at Twitter.com/robertsalonga.