So much for that slap on the wrist.
Former fire captain John David Hines, scion of a leading Long Beach fire fighting family, had the book thrown at him by an angry judge, turning a one-year sentence in a relatively plush pay-to-stay cell into over four years of hard time in the state penitentiary.
Hines had been sentenced for the drunken hit-and-run that left cyclist Jeff Gordon lying severely injured on a Seal Beach street, after drinking himself silly at a Long Beach bar last April Fools Day. When police arrested him at his home, drenched in urine soaked pants, Hines had a BAC of .24 — three times the legal limit.
In what many cyclists — or maybe just me — considered an overly lenient sentence, Santa Ana Superior Court judge Erick Larsh sentenced the former fireman to four years and four months in state prison — then suspended the sentence in lieu of one year in the Orange County jail and five years probation.
And rather than force him to consort behind bars with OC’s criminal element, the judge allowed Hines to buy his way into the Huntington Beach jail, where he could serve his time in greater comfort.
All he had to do was stay out of trouble for a few months.
Yet the former EMT-certified fire captain, trained to save the lives of victims just like the one he left lying in the street, couldn’t even manage that.
This past January, jailers noticed him wobbling, and discovered he had extracted alcohol from hand sanitizer by filtering it through salt. Then he drank enough of the resulting extract to result in a blood alcohol level of .22 — almost as high as when he nearly killed Gordon.
And enough to turn that gentle slap on the wrist into a good swift kick into the state pen.
That’s exactly what happened on Friday, as Judge Larsh ruled that Hines had violated his probation, and resentenced him to the full four years and four months of his original sentence, saying “I can’t fix you.”
Don’t get me wrong.
I have no sympathy for hit-and-run drivers. And even less for anyone who gets behind the wheel after drinking — let alone nearly taking the life of another human being.
But Hines is clearly a very sick man.
Whether he’ll get the help he needs behind bars is highly questionable. We can only hope he comes out of prison a much healthier man than when he went in.
I’m told that Danae Miller, the DUI/distracted driver convicted of running down world-class triathlete Amine Britel in Newport Beach last year, is settling in nicely at the Chowchilla women’s prison, where she can expect to spend most of the next four years.
On a slightly less serious note, reader Mark Pryor sends a warning that Huntington Beach will host the 2012 Surf City Open later this month, from March 29th through April 1st.
And no, it’s not a bike race. Or even a surfing championship.
It’s a paint ball tournament. Which means that cyclists can expect to be used for target practice.
Consider Mark’s story —
In Spring of 2008 I was shot at close range with a paintball gun on PCH in Seal Beach while heading towards HB. I stayed up and was unaware of what happened, until a relative explained what it was later that day.
I was informed the next day that a major PB Tourney for Pros was underway in HB. I did report the incident to OC Sheriffs, but they were uninterested since I was OK.
My back was beet red from the injury, although nothing appeared to penetrate the skin.
Moral of the story: when the PB Players are in town, cyclists will be considered as easy targets.
Its shameful that the tournaments are allowed when people are victimized this way by participants traveling to and from the events.
Today’s news kept me from updating this week’s events tonight; hopefully I can get to that later this weekend.
But don’t forget Saturday’s Get Sum Dim Sum ride, or the early morning Wolfpack Hustle Marathon Crash race prior to the L.A. Marathon on Sunday; over 1,300 riders have already registered to take part.
Saturday is also St. Patrick’s Day, which means tens of thousands of amateur drunks will be on the roads all day.
So assume every driver you see on the streets has had about three green Guinness too many.
And ride accordingly.