Update: Fernandez convicted in Swarzman death, sentencing scheduled Sept. 12

About an hour after I wrote that Joseph Fernandez had been convicted in the death of Encino cyclist Jim Swarzman last April, the North County Times confirmed the initial report I had received.

Despite speculation that the quick verdict resulted from a plea deal, the 46-year old driver was found guilty of hit-and-run causing death in a two-day bench trial conducted by Vista Judge K. Michael Kirkman, after Fernandez waived his right to a jury trial.

Sentencing is now scheduled for September 12; no word on whether Fernandez will remain in custody until then. He faces a maximum of four years in state prison.

Swarzman, an experienced long-distance cyclist was riding in the Leucadia section of Encinitas with his fiance and another rider as part of a 600k sponsored by the San Diego Randonneurs when he was struck from in a violent collision; the driver reportedly sped off as Swarzman’s bike exploded.

Fernandez turned himself in the next day, reported saying he thought he may have hit something over the weekend.

Four years hardly seems sufficient for a crime like this, in which an innocent, well-loved man has his life snuffed out by a driver who was careless at best, and ran away without stopping to render aid or take responsibility for his actions; given the violence of the collision, it seems impossible that he was unaware that he had hit someone.

But at least we’ve got a conviction and his loved ones have some sense of justice,  unlike another recent case.

8 comments

  1. Jim Lucas says:

    Finally someone who kills a bicyclist actually gets convicted. It is about time!

  2. Digital Dame says:

    I think part of the problem with getting convictions is the sympathies will typically lie with the motorist, as most judges and juries are themselves motorists, and probably not a few of them are anti-cyclist in their personal views. There is so much vitriol directed at people on bikes it’s hard to believe that all that stops at the courtroom door. No doubt some of the judges and juries feel it could have as easily been them who hit a cyclist, and it’s hard to go hard on someone like yourself.

  3. Skip says:

    I don’t think it is necessarily vitriol. I think what is more likely is most juries and judges believe that cycling is an inherently dangerous ‘sport’ (just look at some of the waivers event sponsors require us to sign), and that we are taking our lives in our own hands when we get onto the roads. Until society stops blaming us for getting in the way of ‘normal hard-working people’ we’ll continue to see these lopsided decisions.

    • Rob Cravens says:

      I’ve been attacked verbally, had things thrown at me out of cars, been physically threatened, even on basically empty streets, by pedestrians, cars going the other direction. Most of these people didn’t even have the excuse that I was “in thier way”. And my experiences are not unique by any means. I am going to go with “vitriol.”

  4. Rob Cravens says:

    Great news regarding Jim’s killer! I have spent the last few days trading emails and holding long discussions with some Doug Caldwell’s friends where I work, regarding our opinions on that outcome. I am happy as I can imagine that my riding buddy Jim will at least get some small measure of justice.

  5. user1 says:

    WOW, there actually is a god! I thought for sure there was no god. I mean we’ve proven that the great satan is alive and well, but to prove there’s a god????? WOW!

  6. Todd says:

    Thanks for the heads up about the bike thief. I’m over in that area at least a couple times a week. It’s a shame a thief had to show up because a lot of people have been riding lately and there’s excellent bike parking.

  7. Biker395 says:

    This:

    http://northcountycycleclub.com/smf/index.php?topic=779.0

    States:

    “Trial by Judge concluded Tues, July 12, 3:00 PM.. The judge found the defendant guilty of failure to stop at the scene of an accident. He also found that Jim Swarzman contributed to his death by not heeding the statute that cyclists must ride to the right hand side of q lqne. He also pronounced that the narrow strip of roadway outside of the white line is not a designated bike lane.”

    Can someone confirm this? From my understanding of the facts, the judge has made an error of law and needs to know about this before sentencing. I fear the judge will be lenient with Mr. Fernandez (who was probably drunk), reasoning that Jim was also responsible for the crash. Does anyone know the name of the prosecutor or the judge?

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