Jesus Castillo, a 44-year old day laborer from Sonora, Mexico, was riding his bike — his only form of transportation — on Glendale Boulevard in the early hours of Sunday, April 19th last year. As he rode south, he was struck and killed by a car driven by Alejandro Hidalgo, who fled the scene in his Mitsubishi Gallant.
Fortunately, a witness was able to take down the license number, and police were able to take Hidalgo into custody less than two hours later, as well as tracking down a passenger in his car who indicated that Hidalgo had been driving under the influence.
According to recently married cyclist/attorney DJ Wheels, last November the District Attorney had offered Hidalgo a plea bargain that included prison time for the three charges he faced. Since he hadn’t received an update from the D.A.’s office, he decided to look into the case, and discovered that Hidalgo is scheduled for sentencing on Wednesday.
According to Wheels,
I decided to request a copy of the docket today at the clerk’s office. I learned that on November 12, 2009, the district attorney requested that count 1 for gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated (Penal Code 191.5a) be changed to vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated without gross negligence (Penal Code 191.5b).
Hidalgo then changed his not guilty plea to no contest on this particular count. Judge Craig Richman entered his conviction under 191.5b, a felony, and ordered him to return for sentencing on January 6, 2010 in Dept. 35 at 8:30 am.
There were still two counts of drunk driving on the original complaint, but the minutes do not state whether those were vacated as part of the plea bargain.
It should be noted that 191.5a requires a state prison term of 4, 6 or 10 years. On the other hand, 191.5b, requires imprisonment for 16 months, 2 or 4 years.
We’ll have to see what sentence the judge imposes. But even four years seems like a relative slap on the wrist for killing another human being, simply because someone felt compelled to get behind the wheel after having a few too many — or maybe merely capable of making it home in that condition — then running away and leaving a man to die in the street.
Meanwhile, Dr. Christopher Thompson is scheduled for sentencing at 8:30 am this Friday at the Airport Courthouse, after being convicted on five felony counts for intentionally injuring two cyclists in Mandeville Canyon on July 4th, 2008.
A reminder that it’s not just cyclists who are vulnerable to hit-and-run drivers. Will notes upcoming rides, including his rapidly growing, Five Seven Eight Presidents Ride. Biking through the snow in Cambridge, Mass. Advice on sharing the road from a cycling instructor in my old home town. New York remembers cyclists and pedestrians killed last year. Yes, that really is an impressive bike rack. How people who don’t live in SoCal keep warm on winter rides. Where are Singapore cyclists supposed to ride when there’s no good place for Singapore cyclists? 2,500 Aussie cyclists ride to raise safety awareness. A road raging driver in the UK beats a cyclist after a near collision. Finally, yet another Facebook page for people who love to see cyclists get hurt; evidently, the well of human compassion online doesn’t run very deep.