Archive for Dr. Christopher Thompson

Dr. Thompson disappears, why ghost bikes are needed, and Times Steve Lopez says LA isn’t doing enough

Evidently, the rumors were true.

A search of the state’s prison inmate locater no longer shows Christopher Thomas Thompson in Norco prison, or anywhere else.

He’s done his time, and deserves a chance to put his past behind him.

On the other hand, anyone who uses a motor vehicle as a weapon should never be allowed to drive again.

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If you’ve ever questioned the need for ghost bikes, take a moment and read this. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

But grab a handkerchief first. You’ll need it.

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Now that you’ve dried your eyes, here’s a great piece from the LA Times Steve Lopez, in which he says the city’s plan for bikeways and a 5% bike commuter share aren’t bold enough.

That’s not (LADOT Senior Bicycle Coordinator Michelle) Mowery’s fault. She’s dealing with infrastructure limitations and all the usual political realities. Too many motorists, merchants and homeowners stand in the way of a bold transformation in a city that desperately needs one, and no public official past or present has been brave enough to stand up to them for the greater good. But do they really think we can just go on adding cars to already clogged roads?

If the goal is to get more people to consider commuting by bike, we need more than painted white lines on the road and the rare buffer like the one in the tunnel. We need fully protected bikeways, so people of all ages can go for a ride without fear of getting hit by a bus.

It’s a good read.

And great to have Lopez on our side.

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Speaking of good reads, BikeSD’s Sam Ollinger offers up the perfect polite, yet firm response to a woman who wrote to complain about scofflaw cyclists.

Bookmark this one. And use it as a template the next time someone expects you to take responsibility for bad bike behavior by others.

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Cyclists ride from Bell Gardens to the Downtown courthouse to attend a preliminary hearing for Wendy Villegas. She’s the 21-year old woman charged with driving under the influence, felony manslaughter and hit-and-run in the collision that killed bike rider Andy Garcia and seriously injured two other riders.

One of the riders was Garcia’s mother, who asked for tougher penalties for hit-and-run. Unfortunately, as usually happens with preliminary hearings, the hearing was rescheduled.

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OC cyclists ride to honor Irvine Jax employee Joe Robinson, killed by an 18-year old alleged meth-using, drunk and speeding hit-and-run driver.

Much respect to the folks at Jax Bicycle Center, who have gone out of their way to show some for one of their own, including raising funds for Robinson’s family. These guys definitely have their hearts in the right place.

Meanwhile, the alleged drunk and speeding hit-and-run driver who killed Robinson was due to be released without charges on Tuesday.

Eighteen-year old Sommer Gonzales was being held without bail since her arrest following the Sunday morning collision on Santiago Canyon Road. However, California law only allows a suspect to be held for 48 hours without charges being filed, and the OC DA’s office wants CHP investigators to look into the case further before deciding on charges.

Reports are she’s due to be arraigned on Thursday.

But why they couldn’t file preliminary charges to keep her custody in the meantime is beyond me.

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The Torrance substance abuse counselor who ran down and killed a pedestrian — hitting him so hard he was knocked out of his underwear, then drove over two miles with his body lodged in the windshield — has been convicted.

Fifty-two year old Sherri Lynn Wilkins was found guilty of 2nd degree murder, DUI and hit-and-run; she was over twice the legal limit when she killed 31-year old Philip Moreno.

Wilkins now faces 55 year to life.

And no, I can’t remember anyone facing a sentence like that for killing a cyclist.

Ever.

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HuffPo writes about the problems facing the previously approved My Figueroa project; if Mayor Garcetti really wants to create great streets, why is he keeping quiet? At the other end of the street, all Fig4All is asking for is better safety for everyone. Councilmember Paul Koretz, who single-handedly killed the long-planned Westwood bike lane, submits a motion to extend the Expo Greenway the full length of the train line and bike path. Streetsblog’s Joe Linton says walkability is key to the success of bike share, which means it could be a problem for LA. A woman’s journey from Israeli soldier to LAPD bike cop. Culver Blvd is getting a makeover east of Sepulveda Blvd, including a separated bikeway. Anyone interested in participating in this year’s Climate Ride is invited to attend a Meet & Greet at the Federal Bar in North Hollywood on Wednesday, February 12th — and don’t forget the Ride With Greg Laemmle contest that could pay your entry fee and most of your fundraising amount, while providing free Laemmle movie passes for the rest of the year. Eleven-year old Rosemead boy suffers a fractured skull in collision with a pickup.

Sisters are doing it for themselves when it comes to advancing bicycling in California. This is why you’re likely to get screwed in your next collision: California has the nation’s second lowest liability insurance requirement. Cyclists on an early morning ride discover a woman’s body in Yorba Linda. A cyclist is seriously injured when he’s run down from behind in a Bermuda Dunes hit-and-run. Santa Cruz Tesla driver faces charges after killing a cyclist while literally asleep at the wheel. San Francisco’s Municipal Transit Agency has adopted a Vision Zero plan to eliminate bike and pedestrian deaths within a decade; here in Los Angeles <crickets>. Oakland’s famed Telegraph Avenue could soon get slower traffic and protected bike lanes. After a Turlock driver knocks a cyclist off his bike at 60 mph, another driver hits his bike and drags him 100 feet; it’s anyone’s guess which one killed him. Mountain View considers naming a city bike-ped czar; here in Los Angeles <crickets>.  Yuba City mother calls on hit-and-run driver who seriously injured her bike riding son to do the humane thing.

If car culture is really dying, it’s a long, slow, complicated death. US business leaders are finally getting the message that Danish-style bicycling infrastructure is good for business. Lovely Bicycling considers rural transportation cycling; one of my favorite bloggers often writes about biking through the Scottish countryside. The road raging Tucson driver who hit a group of pro cyclists gets a whopping seven days in jail. Evidently, road rage is a real problem in Tucson, as a driver is suspected of murder after punching a bike rider who died hours later. A lot of Seattle fans biked to Super Bowl parties. A Colorado Springs man gets his $5000 bike back from an armed thief after spotting it on Craigslist. Minneapolis cyclist does everything right, yet still gets killed by a drunk driver; then there’s this: “Remember, bicyclists are not putting themselves in danger when riding — people driving vehicles are.” Eight years in prison for a Chicago-area bike thief and long-time criminal. Pennsylvania man overcomes cancer to ride his bike around the world five times. I like it, as a PA bike shop owner gets a bicycle funeral after passing away a age 99. Evidently, New York bike riders are behaving better. Two Chattanooga teens have finally been charged in the assault on a cyclist that caused nationwide outrage. No bikes involved; just three killed when a 79-year old Florida woman backs over a crowd of pedestrians after church. Florida moves to strengthen laws against hit-and-run; the Miami Herald says it’s time to stop the mayhem on the streets. Autistic Florida boy gets his bike back after thieves take it.

Turns out that pre-ride sugary goop may not do you a damn bit of good. New study suggests ways to detect bicycles through crash-prevention video imaging systems. Maybe being blinded by the sun isn’t a Get Out of Jail Free card for British drivers after all. Women finally gain access to the Tour de France as something other than podium girls, thanks to a circuit race through Paris on the final day. Evidently, the better looking you are, the more likely you are to win the Tour de France, which is why Adam Levine is penciled in to win this year’s tour.

Finally, Fat Cyclist urges you to get in shape to ride out the coming zombie apocalypse. And remember, I don’t need to outride the zombies, I just need to outride you.

Unconfirmed rumor says Dr. Thompson may be back on the streets soon; LA BAC meets tonight

It’s possible LA’s bicycling Boogey Man could be getting out of jail soon.

If he hasn’t already.

Rumors are swirling that Dr. Christopher Thompson, the road raging driver responsible for the infamous Mandeville Canyon brake check that seriously injured two cyclists, was due to be released from Norco prison yesterday.

I haven’t been able to find confirmation one way or the other yet.

But Thompson is four years into a five year sentence. With good behavior, it would make sense that he would be due for release soon.

The question is, should we care?

Yes, he did a horrible thing. But he’s apologized, and he’s done his time.

Maybe it’s time to simply put him in our unpleasant past, and get him get on with his life.

And us with ours.

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The LA Bicycle Advisory Committee meets tonight with a long agenda, including discussion of bike lanes on Figueroa Street.

Bicycle Advisory Committee of the City of Los Angeles
Agenda
Tuesday, February 4, 2014, 7:00 p.m.
Hollywood Neighborhood City Hall ‐ Community Room
6501 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90028

PLEASE NOTE

  • Public participation in Bicycle Advisory Committee meetings is welcome.
  • This agenda is tentative and may be updated as the meeting date nears.
  • Items may not be considered in the same order as this Agenda.
  • Meetings start promptly at the posted time
  • Sign Language Interpreters, Communication Access Real-Time Transcription, Assistive Listening Devices, or other auxiliary aids and/or services may be provided upon request. To ensure availability, you are advised to make your request at least 72 hours prior to the meeting you wish to attend. Due to difficulties in securing Sign Language Interpreters, five or more business days’ notice is strongly recommended. For additional information, please contact: Shelly del Rosario at LADOT at (213) 972-5980

1. Call to Order – Count for Quorum – Member Sign In
2. Approval of Minutes from December 2013 Meeting
3. Introduction of Committee Members
4. Public Comment: Non Agenda Items: All speakers must submit a City of LA Speaker Card before they will be
recognized. Public Comment is limited to two (2) minutes per speaker.
5. Los Angeles Police Department Report
a. Discussion and possible action re LAPD/LACBC handout re rules of road for bicyclists.
6. LADOT Bikeways Program Report
7. LADOT Bikeways Engineering Report re Bikeways Installed and In Progress
8. Bikeways Subcommittee Report:
a. 20‐Mile Sharrow Package
b. Discussion and possible action re Planning Department request to fund and staff “metrics”
c. Discussion and possible action re LADOT funding and staffing levels
9. Advocacy and Education Subcommittee Report:
10. Planning Subcommittee Report:
a. Discussion and possible action re Year 2 Environmental Review Package
b. Discussion and possible action re Mobility Element Update
11. Planning Department Report:
12. Metro Update
13. Update re status of Bike Plan Year 1 Environmental Package Projects (see next page):
a. Discussion and possible action re North Figueroa Package
14. Update re other projects
a. My Figueroa
b. Hyperion/Glendale Blvd Bridge:
c. Signage on LA River bike path
15. Involvement with Other City Departments:
a. City Attorney
b. Recreation and Parks
c. Public Works‐Bureau of Engineering
d. Public Works‐Street Services
16. Upcoming Events/Activities:
17. Officer Reports – Chairman – Vice Chairman
18. Member Reports – Emphasis on Council District Meetings and Projects
19. Adjourn

Next Meeting – April 1, 2014

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Boyonabike calls for an end to car-centered culture at Caltrans. The LAPD is increasing bike patrols along the Venice Boardwalk; hopefully they’ll bring a little peace to the bike path, as well. Sweet Ride USA releases a mouth-watering Episode Three featuring Peddler’s Creamery and DK Donuts; they’re featured in this month’s Bicycling. In his new role reporting for Streetsblog, Joe Linton asks if LA bridge builders can reconfigure the Riverside-Figueroa bridge; welcome back to one of LA’s most knowledgeable and influential bike, transportation and river advocates. Pink and daughter take a “strenuous” ride along the beach in Santa Monica; meanwhile, the singing Braxton sisters learn to ride a bike on TV, sort of.

A San Diego cyclist sues over a bad crash caused by a broken sidewalk. An 11-year old Bakersfield boy is killed by a car while riding his bike. Santa Barbara is letting 30-year old bike lanes near a school fade to oblivion in favor of parking. A Fontana cyclist escapes robbers who attempted to form a human barricade on a bike path. Jury deliberations begin for a man charged with attacking a rider on a bike path.

How to improve traffic safety for older adults; something has to be done to get dangerous drivers off the road while allowing safe ones to keep driving. New medical study shows master’s cyclists up to 71-years old maintain muscle mass as well as much younger riders. How to create a pop-up protected bike lane for just $600. New wireless hi-def bike cam released by Shimano, as well as new models by other makers. A man and his bike make beautiful music together. No more Viva Bike Vegas gran fondo in Las Vegas following Interbike this year. Anchorage motor vehicle laws stack the deck against cyclists; same story could be written just about anywhere. Tucson looks to build protected bike lanes; they could beat out LA for the Green Lane Project funding if the My Figueroa project fails to move forward. Going carless with bike and car share in Denver. A Houston area cop teams with Walmart to replace a boy’s stolen bike. St. Louis County votes for Complete Streets, despite protests from some cyclists decrying bike lanes and the “bicycle industrial complex.” A Delaware cyclist is ticketed for riding his bike safely and legally. Fortunately, not many bike riders are found on freeways, as a South Carolina driver is stopped for weaving in and out of traffic at 107 mph, while drunk — and with a open, half-empty gallon bottle of vodka — and no license. Sorry Houma, Louisiana, a shared lane may be many things, but it’s not a bike path. A 21-year old Tampa man faces prison for killing a bike rider while drag racing.

British experts say it will take more and better data to cut rates of bicycling injury and deaths; “Every death through cycling is entirely preventable, with countless lives shattered by the ripple effect of these tragic events.” Bike-hating Top Gear hosts take a ride through the streets on London. After barely surviving a collision with a car, a UK cyclist has to wait to learn if she can have her missing teeth replaced. Nottingham bike lanes are a “waste of cash and unwanted;” except by the people who might ride them, of course. The Tour of Dubai could help counter anti-bike fear-mongering. It’s war out there as Adelaide drivers and cyclists do battle daily on their commutes. It’s legal to cross a double line in Australia to pass a cyclist safely; not so in California, thanks to our veto-pen wielding governor.

Finally, a New Zealand study shows cycling is safer than you think — in fact, a two-hour ride is six times safer than riding a horse, 15 times safer than a day on the slopes and 35-times safer than playing rugby.

Mostly final Dr. Thompson appeal denied, PVE to review crippling speed bumps, bike rage around the world

Somehow, we missed the apparent final resolution of the infamous Mandeville Canyon brake check case.

Ohio Bike Lawyer Steve Magos forwards word that the state Supreme Court refused to hear Dr. Christopher Thompson’s appeal of his conviction.

The appeal was denied November 2nd, which means the case is finally, completely and hopefully, irrevocably over, and his conviction stands.

Unless he appeals in Federal Court.

Of course, he’s already served over two-and-a-half years of his five-year sentence. Which means he could be back on the streets soon.

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Palos Verdes Estates will hold a meeting to review the speed cushions on Via del Monte that nearly killed cyclist Richard Schlickman.

Seriously.

Shouldn’t that be all the discussion they need?

Or are they trying to take out a few more of us while they’re at it?

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As if road raging drivers weren’t bad enough, now we have to worry about armed bike riders.

An Oceanside bike rage incident leads to a standoff with police after a cyclist fires a rifle round into the ground during an argument with another rider. Meanwhile, a Michigan bike rider — who, at 69, should have known better — pulls a knife in a dispute with another much younger cyclist.

In a more traditional approach to roadway violence, a bike raging Brit cyclist punches a BMW driver; not that I haven’t wanted to on occasion, but please.

Maybe it’s something in the air.

And the Kiwi mountain biker who was caught on video assaulting another rider gets a whopping $750 fine.

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Erin Galligan ghost bike; photo courtesy of George Wolfberg

Bicycle Fixation offers a Flickr set of bicycling photos. LADOT takes credit for installing over 4,600 bike racks throughout the city, and offers an update on the BPIT meeting held earlier this month. Santa Monica plans to sign a contract with L.A. cycling’s favorite planning firm to make Safe Routes to Schools improvements around SaMo High. A memorial ride was held Monday for Erin Galligan, the Venice waitress killed in a still unsolved Santa Monica hit and run earlier this month. Culver City gets its first bike corral in front of my favorite coffee shop. The new bicycling postage stamps are available now. Now that’s a bike. Pasadena cyclists enjoy the city’s first Gran Fondo. New buffered bike lanes in Old Town San Diego. Cycling Unbound says once we reduce roadway deaths down to a dozen or so, then we can focus on those evil scofflaw cyclists. A Santa Rosa cyclist is injured trying to avoid an apparent dooring; a perfect example of why drivers should always give cyclists at least three feet passing distance. Sometimes it seems like cyclists get blamed for everything; now a driver claims one of us was the reason he drove his SUV into a Watsonville home. Seriously, if you’re too drunk to stay on your bike, don’t ride it.

If you think bike helmets look bad, take a look at how they looked in 1948. In celebrity bike news, Jessica Alba is helping to raise a new generation of cyclists, while Billy Elliot star Jamie Bell performs an emergency seat adjustment for biking girlfriend Evan Rachel Wood. Just two days after the Batman massacre, a Denver cyclist is killed in a more traditional crime. Even the ski resort town of Aspen CO may get bike lanes. In a truly bizarre letter, an Aspen writer says that, despite claiming to have founded the Red Zinger Bicycle Classic — no doubt to the surprise of those who usually get credit for it — he is now the sworn nemesis of reckless riders. Mountain bikers could get more access to national parks. RAGBRI riders suffer from extreme heat. An elite Massachusetts cyclist is seriously injured after colliding with a truck during a Maine time trial. New York cyclists can now attend bike classes in lieu of traffic fines; maybe some day we’ll have something like this here. Bike share will come to Forth Worth by next spring. Texas-based Witch on a Bicycle offers some intriguing ideas on how to reform drivers license laws. The family of a missing Louisiana cyclist hope she’s still alive, even though a convicted sex offender has been indicted for her death and that of another woman. A Florida cyclist is singled out for wearing purple, and ticketed for — legally — leaving a bike lane; apparently, Barney Fife is alive and well and working in Florida.

A Montreal cyclist is killed in a right hook when the bike path he was on crossed a roadway; police note he had the right-of-way. CLR Effect recaps the just completed le Tour. Bradley Wiggins, Tour de France champ and fashion icon — or should we say Sir Bradley? — is the abandoned son of a drunken former pro rider. Looks like Wiggins won more than just a trophy Sunday, but will his victory lead to safer streets for UK cyclists? Seventeen-year pro George Hincapie rides his last tour. How Brit cyclists conquered the world; thanks to George Wolfberg for the heads-up. The rich get richer as Denmark cyclists get a bicycle superhighway.

Finally, looks like I got mine just in time as bike cams hit the big time, with the New York Times suggesting they’re the new black boxes for cyclists, and a new rearview cam saves the last five minutes of video in case you get hit; thanks again to George Wolfberg for the black box link, who notes that such devices can cut both ways.

And a New Zealand cyclist says a helmet cam actually makes drivers slow down.

Mandeville cyclists Jerry Browned, Dr. Thompson appeal denied, fight for your Expo bike station

Just a few quick notes before we get this week started.

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First up, I received word over the weekend about another dangerous incident in Mandeville Canyon.

A group of cyclists were descending the canyon at speed when they were Jerry Browned — passed too closely, in honor of our misguided governor’s veto of the three-foot passing law — at a high rate of speed by a Maserati Quattropote in what sounds like a deliberate assault.

Fortunately, the riders were all able to remain upright, and no one was injured.

But be careful out there.

It sounds like we’ve got a Dr. Thompson wannabe out there.

Update: I’ve heard from one of the cyclists involved, who promises full details on his own blog in the nest day or two. I’ll include the link as soon as it’s available.

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Speaking of the Good Doctor, word came over the weekend that the California Supreme Court has refused to hear his appeal. That means, barring any unexpected developments, he can be expected to serve out his term.

Which may have been what set out the Maserati owner, who may have been a neighbor of L.A.’s biking boogeyman.

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Frequent contributor Jim Lyle forwarded an email looking for more information about a cycling collision over the weekend.

The accident occurred shortly before noon yesterday (Saturday).  I believe the biker was turning left onto PV Blvd from Malaga Cove Plaza.  The car that hit him was turning left onto PV Drive West after coming downhill from PV Drive North.  The car should have stopped at the stop sign.  I saw the biker on the small grassy median being treated by paramedics.  The white car was parked 5 car lengths beyond the stop sign.  The left half of the front windshield was shattered.  There was an ambulance and a fire truck but no media.

Let me know if you find any news about the accident.

Let’s keep the rider in our prayers. If you have any news — hopefully good — about the incident, let me know.

And the Orange County Register reports that a mountain biker was airlifted out of Modjeska Canyon on Saturday with a possible head injury; no word on the condition of the rider.

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Rex Reese forwards the obituary for Frederik Meijer, founder of the Midwest retailing giant. And more pertinent to our discussion, the man who helped start a network of hiking and biking trails in western Michigan.

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Finally, Steve Herbert invites you to join the Culver City Bicycle Coalition in fighting for the previously planned bike station at the Culver City Expo Station, which is in danger of being cut from the plans.

You can express your concerns at the next meeting of the Expo Line Construction Authority:

December 1st, 2:30pm
Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration
500 West Temple Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Board of Supervisors’
Hearing Room 381B

And he forwards a look at a new ad on the Culver City green buses, which expresses an attitude I think most of us share.

Another fatal shooting of a bike rider in Long Beach; should we care?

Does it really matter?

According to the Long Beach Press-Telegram, an unidentified man was shot and killed in Long Beach around 7:30 Saturday night; or rather, the authorities have not publicly released the victim’s ID yet.

Police found the victim on the 1300 block of Atlantic Avenue after responding to reports of shots fired; he was taken to a nearby hospital where he died of his wounds. Witnesses report he’d been riding his bike when he was shot, though police could not confirm that. However, a bike is clearly visible lying in the street in the news photos.

No description was available for the suspect(s), who remain at large. Police do not yet know if the shooting was gang related.

Chances are, though, it was.

Not because of any stereotypes about the location, though Long Beach has long had a gang problem, just like many or most cities in Southern California. But because most street shootings involve gang ties in some way.

Of the six — now seven — fatal shootings of cyclists in SoCal this year, at least four were suspected of being gang-related. One in Silver Lake last April involved an alleged gang member as the shooter, though the victim — and the reason for the shooting — had nothing to do with gangs. And last I heard, another April shooting, this time in San Diego, did not appear to be gang-related.

So what do these deaths have to do with the greater cycling community?

In most, if not all of these cases, the victims were not targeted because they were on a bike; the bike was merely the form of transportation they were using at the time.

That’s the argument several people have used in encouraging me not to give the same coverage to cases like this that I do to other cycling deaths. And why I no longer include shootings in my stats on cycling fatalities, instead separating them into their own category apart from traffic-related deaths.

Still others have questioned whether shooting victims should be honored with a ghost bike. Or if they should be, if not ignored by cyclists, at least not afforded the same concern and respect we show other fallen riders.

And should his death matter any less to us if it does turn out to be gang-related than if he was the victim of a road rage attack, killed precisely because he was on a bike and in the way?

My personal opinion is that all deaths matter, and that as cyclists, we should all be concerned when any one of us falls, for whatever reason.

For at least a moment, at the time of his death, this man was riding a bike. He was, however briefly or for whatever reason, one of us.

And he is now dead, like too many others. Whether they were victims of guns, or cars. Or their own riding errors.

He was one of us, and now he is gone.

So what do you think?

Should we care?

Or simply turn our heads and look the other way?

Update: the victim of the shooting has been identified as 29-year old Reynard Lionell Fulton of Palmdale.

Update: Dr. Christopher Thompson loses appeal, will remain in state prison

According to cyclist and attorney Dj Wheels, L.A.’s very own bike boogie man has lost his appeal of his conviction, and will remain in prison for the foreseeable future.

Dr. Christopher Thompson was convicted of assaulting and seriously injuring two cyclists on Mandeville Canyon on July 4th, 2008, and was sentenced to five years in state prison for five felony convictions and two misdemeanors.

It shouldn’t have surprised anyone that he had appealed his conviction. And thankfully, it comes as no surprise that the judge has affirmed the original conviction, which means that the Good Doctor will serve the remaining three-and-a-half years of his sentence in the medium security California Rehabilitation Center in Norco.

Dj Wheels is going to try to get more information on the ruling, which came with extra instructions that were not published online.

But you can sleep easy tonight.

The boogie man is safely behind bars.

Update: Velonews has more information, including the basis of Thompson’s rejected appeal:

In his appeal, Thompson said the trial court erred in allowing testimony about an earlier, similar incident in which another cyclist, Patrick Early, had an encounter with Thompson on the same road. Thompson said the testimony was unreliable, dissimilar from the incident he was charged with and prejudicial to his case. Thompson also claimed he was ineffectually represented at the trial, and challenged the trial court’s decision to not grant him probation and to pay the victims’ legal fees.

The appellate court rejected all of these claims.

Velonews reports that Thompson did win one small victory, however, as he was credited for one extra day in custody prior to sentencing, reducing his prison time by 68 days, rather than the 67 he was originally credited with.

Thanks to Jim Lyle for the heads-up.

A raft of legal cases — 5 deaths, 4 hit-and-runs, 1 drunken pop star and a justly jailed physician

I haven’t had a lot of opportunity lately to keep up with recent bike-related court cases, or even to update the Legal Cases page on my blog — something I’ll try to get to over the weekend.

Fortunately, local cyclist and attorney Dj Wheels continues to do an incredible job of keeping on top of what’s happening in our local courts, as well as with key trials across the country. This past week, he sent his latest update on some of the cases currently making their way through the courts.

My heartfelt thanks to Wheels, who has done more to keep the local cycling community informed than we could ever thank him for.

Shawn Fields – PA068775 (San Fernando)

Charged in the drunken hit-and-run death of 17-year old Daniel (Danny) Marin on Laurel Canyon Blvd in Pacoima on October 2nd of last year. While any cycling death leave me shaken, this is one that has hit me the hardest. Maybe it was the needless waste of a bright, well-loved young man; maybe it was because he reminds me of myself at that age. Or maybe just because I think I would have liked him if I’d ever had the chance.

Last hearing was held on January 21 – proof of compliance with discovery requests.  Although the Preliminary Hearing had all ready been scheduled for February 2, that hearing was advanced and continued to February 16 in Dept. 502 – Judge Olmedo.  Fields remains out of custody on bail.

Marco Antonio Valencia – PA065011 (San Fernando)

Valencia is charged with killing cyclist Joseph Novotny and seriously injuring two other riders in Santa Clarita’s Bouquet Canyon. He is accused of exhibiting a “willful, wanton disregard for human life,” by driving with a blood alcohol level of .18, as well as methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana in his system at the time of the morning collision. After the wreck, he reportedly told a deputy to shoot him because his life was over; unfortunately, it was Novotny whose life was ended.

After numerous continuances of the trial date, Valencia will probably be on trial by the end of February for DUI/murder charges.  The next hearing is scheduled for February 14 as a 0 of 20 for Trial.  Valencia is still in custody.

Yelena Krupen – 0BV00450 (Beverly Hills)

Beverly Hills model Yelena Krupen was charged with fleeing the scene after hitting cyclist Brandon Chau on Santa Monica Blvd in Beverly Hills, in a case that infuriated local cyclists by demonstrating just how hard it is to get justice if the rider isn’t critically injured.

She was sentenced on December 7 to 25 days county jail for misdemeanor hit and run property damage and driving on a suspended license charges, plus restitution to the victim.  She surrendered on December 27 to the women’s detention facility in Lynwood.  Her projected release date was January 6 according to the Sheriff’s inmate locator page, but it has not been updated with an actual release date.

Jose Luis Huerta Mundo – 10HM05193 (Newport Beach)

He’s charged in the death of popular OC cyclist Michael Nine, who was killed on a group ride when he collided with a truck driven by Mundo, who was in the country illegally after previously being deported. Mundo allegedly made an illegal turn on a blind corner; Nine was riding downhill at speed and was unable to avoid the truck.

Trial was held in mid November and the jury was hung.  Mundo is being re-tried.  Pre-trial conference is scheduled for February 7 and trial is tentatively scheduled for February 28.

Patrick Roraff – FSB1002475 (San Bernardino)

In another devastating case, rising pro racer Jorge Alvarado was killed shortly after moving from Mexico to the San Bernardino area to join the short-lived Bahati Foundation racing team. He was killed when Roraff was allegedly street racing another car driven by Brett Morin, who is also charged. Along with the fallout from fellow team member Floyd Landis’ doping accusations, Alvarado’s death helped destroy what had been a promising new pro team headed by a local riding hero who gives back to the community he grew up in. If you have the heart to handle it, read the heartbreaking Spanish language comments from those who knew and loved Alvarado.

Pre-Preliminary Hearing is scheduled for March 1 and Preliminary hearing for March 3.  Roraff remains out of custody on bail.

Carlos Bertonatti – F-10-001742  (Miami-Dade County, Florida)

Bertonatti is the Miami pop singer charged with killing cyclist Christophe Le Canne last year in yet another drunken hit-and-run, culminating in a police chase with Le Canne’s bike still lodged under his car. Bertonatti was still on the road despite racking up over 40 moving violations in the past 12 years.

Trial Hearing scheduled for February 22.  http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/riptide/2010/12/carlos_bertonatti_released_on.php

Dr. Christopher Thompson – B221794 (L.A. Downtown Appellate Court)

The Good Doctor was convicted in the vehicular assault of two cyclists in Mandeville Canyon on the 4th of July in 2009. Not surprisingly, he is appealing his conviction.

Attorney General’s responsive brief is due March 1, with no further continuances.  Thompson remains in custody at Wasco State Prison.

In addition to the cases Wheels mentioned here, charges were recently filed against Stephanie Segal in the drunken hit-and-run death of cyclist James Laing in Agoura Hills, and Patricia Ann Izquieta has pleaded guilty in the “drug addled” death of cyclist Donald Murphy in Newport Beach last year.

Evil on trial: Perspectives on the Christopher Thompson sentencing

This is not a happy day.

Yes, the Good Doctor got the sentence he deserved, despite what countless apologists have said online today.

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?

In addition to the Times story, you can read additional coverage of the Christopher Thompson sentencing from L.A. Streetsblog, VeloNewsHuffington Post, KNBC Channel 4 and KABC Channel 7.

Breaking news: Dr. Christopher Thompson sentenced to 5 years

According to a report from cyclist/attorney DJ Wheels, Dr. Christopher Thompson has just been denied probation and sentenced to five years in prison for deliberately injuring two cyclists in Mandeville Canyon on July 4, 2008, as well as threatening two other cyclists in a previous incident.

More details to come.

Update: Damien Newton reports on Streetsblog that Thompson received two years for assault with a deadly weapon, with a three year enhancement for causing great bodily injury.

Evil on trial: Stand by for sentencing

I’d hoped to be in the courtroom today for the sentencing of Dr. Christopher Thompson in the Mandeville Canyon incident, in which he intentionally injured two cyclists by slamming on his breaks in from of them.

Unfortunately, I’m still homebound as I recover from my recent surgery. But DJ Wheels is in the courtroom as we speak, and promises to send an update as soon as the judge rules. So we should have breaking news soon.

Meanwhile, the Times covers the recent letter writing campaign from both sides to influence the sentencing.

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