This is not a happy day.
But the sad thing is that a man like that, who clearly has so many supporters, committed such a heinous act. And that so many of these supporters don’t get that what he did was wrong.
You see, I don’t hate Christopher Thompson. I don’t even think he’s a bad man. Not that I ever met him.
He’s just a man who did a very bad thing.
That may sound odd, considering the header at the top of this page. But when I first started writing about the Thompson trial, I wanted to grab peoples’ attention and identify any posts on the subject. What I came up with was what you see above.
I thought someone would challenge me, and ask just what I meant by that. But no one ever did. Not even the Times, which mentioned one unnamed blogger who wrote under the headline “Evil on trial.”
So I never explained that it referred to what he did, not who he was.
During the course of the trial, Dr. Christopher Thompson has been variously described as a good husband, a good friend and neighbor, and a skilled, caring physician. I have no doubt that all of those things are true.
But none of that excuses what he did to Ron Peterson and Christian Stoehr on July 4th, 2008 in Mandeville Canyon. Or what he tried to do to Patrick Watson and Josh Crosby in an earlier incident, and at least one other incident before that.
Now Peterson has permanent scars, despite plastic surgery, Stoehr has had to recover from his injuries, and the others have to live with the memory of having their lives threatened. And an otherwise good man is facing 5 well-deserved years in prison.
According to cyclist/attorney DJ Wheels, who was in the courtroom today, Thompson faced his victims and apologized for his actions, wishing them good health. He claimed that he never wanted to hurt anyone, in a statement that brought tears to the eyes of his many supporters in the courtroom.
The Times quotes Thompson as saying, ” I would like to apologize deeply, profoundly from the bottom of my heart.” He added, “If my incident shows anything it’s that confrontation leads to an escalation of hostilities.”
His father also spoke to the court in support of the Good Doctor. In what Wheels described as a very emotional statement, speaking without notes, he talked about the things his son had done for the surgical community and how he had helped a lot of people. And told how a humiliated Christopher Thompson had to move back into his father’s home in Oklahoma after the incident.
That was offset by statements from three of the cyclists involved, who talked about their injuries, how dangerous it is for cyclists in L.A., and how the punishment should fit the crime. Looking directly at Thompson, Josh Crosby said, “You were upset that we were on your street.”
Judge Scott Millington clearly got the severity of the incident, despite noting that the 270 letters he’d received from cyclists urging a stiff sentence had no bearing on his ruling.
As the Times put it:
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Scott T. Millington called the case a “wake-up call” to motorists and cyclists and urged local government to provide riders with more bike lanes. He said he believed that Thompson had shown a lack of remorse during the case and that the victims were particularly vulnerable while riding their bicycles.
He sentenced Thompson to the minimum 2 year sentence for each of the two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, and added three years each for both counts of battery causing serious bodily injury; however, he ordered that those sentences be served concurrently, rather than consecutively.
There were also sentences of 1-year and 90 days for the lesser charges of reckless driving and mayhem; again, he ordered that those be served concurrently with the other sentences for a total of 5 years.
He also ordered Thompson to pay restitution for the cyclists’ medical expenses, with a hearing set for next month. And he revoked the Good Doctor’s drivers license for the remainder of his life.
However, DJ Wheels says that Thompson could be eligible for parole after serving just half his sentence, with the rest served on parole — assuming Thompson doesn’t get into trouble behind bars. And don’t be surprised if state prison authorities consider the Good Doctor an ideal candidate for early release, if plans to reduce prison overcrowding in California are put into effect.
With the felony conviction, loss of his medical license should also be a foregone conclusion — though a number of people in the medical profession have warned that it may not be as clear cut as it seems.
Of course, that does nothing to address the vitriol flying across the internet today. Like this comment that followed a story on the Arizona Star website, from a woman who claimed to be a personal friend of Thompson’s:
Not only were these cyclists COMPLETELY OUT OF LINE but they were traveling five wide on a road that is less than 9 feet across. He has NEVER injured anyone in his entire life and would never intentionally hurt someone…He caused injury to people by complete accident which could have been avoided if they had OBEYED THE RULES of the road while biking. IT IS THAT SIMPLE!!!
DJ Wheels also notes one other fact that puts this case in stomach-turning perspective. Alejandro Hidalgo is scheduled to be sentenced this Monday for the drunk-driving hit-and-run death of Jesus Castillo last April.
His sentence? Two years.
Two years for getting drunk, getting behind the wheel and running down another human being, then running away and leaving a man to die alone in the street.
Meanwhile, Thompson gets five years for intentionally injuring two cyclists, yet remaining at the scene.
What’s wrong with that picture?