Dad pleads not guilty to charges of driving off cliff with young daughters

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A 47-year-old man accused of intentionally driving a pickup truck off Sunset Cliffs and into the ocean with his twin toddler daughters inside pleaded not guilty Monday to attempted murder, kidnapping and other charges.

Robert Brians, who also is charged in the 13-count criminal complaint with child abuse, making criminal threats, child abduction and burglary, is being held without bail and is due back in court July 22 for a readiness conference. The judge scheduled a preliminary hearing for Aug. 25.

Prosecutors said Brians faces a possible life sentence if convicted on all charges.

He allegedly drove into the water on the morning of June 13 with his 2- year-old daughters inside the truck. The girls were hospitalized in stable condition, according to a GoFundMe page created to raise money for their medical bills.

About 4:30 a.m. that day, the toddlers’ mother called 911 to report that Brians had taken their children without permission and allegedly contacted her via “numerous calls and texts … clearly stating she may not see (them) again,” according to the GoFundMe.com page.

He allegedly threatened to drive the vehicle off the Coronado Bay Bridge, but was later spotted by officers on Hill Street near Cornish Drive and sped off, careening over the side of a cliff and landing upside down in the water, according to police.

Moments later, a canine officer also responding to the emergency, 22-year SDPD veteran Jonathan Wiese, arrived in the area. Reaching the scene of the crash and seeing Brians’ pickup upside down in the water, Wiese grabbed a long leash he uses for his service dog, wrapped it around his chest, gave the other end to fellow officers and rappelled down the precipice.

Wiese then swam out to the foundering truck and rescued the children and Brians. Medics took all three to hospitals for treatment of injuries that were not considered life-threatening.

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