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A man accused of shooting at his ex-girlfriend's truck in Livermore pleaded not guilty Wednesday.

Neal Kuopus also passed on his right to a preliminary hearing, thereby sending the case closer to a trial date.

Kuopus appeared briefly in Alameda County Superior Court and let his attorney, deputy public defender Norma Rivera, speak for him.

Rivera asked him several questions to confirm that he understood he had a right to a preliminary hearing, where a judge must decide that a crime happened and that the defendant probably was involved.

The decision to skip the hearing was somewhat of a surprise, because according to court documents, Rivera and deputy district attorney Michael Roemer previously came to an agreement that Kuopus would plead guilty to one of the charges in exchange for a prison sentence of as many as three years, as well as five years of probation.

Rivera declined to comment on the case. Roemer said he could not comment specifically on the case, either.

Roemer said it has become more common to bypass a preliminary hearing.

Kuopus is accused of firing a gun at his ex-girlfriend several times Sept. 9 before escaping in the woman's truck. He was arrested three days later after a neighbor spotted him at his home.

He faces three felony counts of shooting into an occupied vehicle.

Police said Kuopus, 56, shot at the woman after she came to his home in the 4800 block of Mulqueeney Common to reclaim possession of her truck.

After an argument inside his home, police say, he followed her out as she got inside a vehicle with her friends. Both shots missed all three people inside, but one shattered a window.

No one was hurt and the victims were able to drive away and call police.

Kuopus is set to appear in court in Hayward Dec. 11 for an arraignment.


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