Tag 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.

………

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.

……..

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.

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.

Valencia sentenced, BOLO for killer car, arrest in Angeles Crest road rage and 3 feet 2 pass passes

Lots of news to catch up on while I take a break from work.

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First up, Marco Antonio Valencia has finally been sentenced in the drunken and high hit-and-run death of Joseph Novotny over two years ago. Valencia had an estimated BAC of .23— nearly three times the legal limit — as well as methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana in his system at the time of the 11 am collision.

The now 22-year old driver will spend the next 26 years to life in state prison.

Unlike some other notable cases, there’s no satisfaction or sense of victory in this case. At least, not for me.

Just an overwhelming sense of sadness that two lives ended that day — Novotny and the man who killed him — because we as a society couldn’t manage to keep a repeat, underage drunk driver off the roads.

And fear of how many more Valencia’s there are out there just waiting to happen.

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Next up, there’s BOLO alert in the hit-and-run death of Alex Romero on the Valley’s Canoga Park Blvd last April.

Authorities have identified the car used to flee the scene after killing Romero in a high-speed collision, and traced it first to Palmdale, then San Pedro before losing track of it. As a result, you’re urged to be on the lookout for the following vehicle —

SUSPECT VEHICLE:

2003 TOYOTA COROLLA 4 DOOR, LIGHT GRY OR SILVER

LIC PLATE: 5FCA061

(REGISTERED TO ADDRESS IN PORTER RANCH)

MISSING RIGHT SIDE MIRROR & FRONT EMBLEM, DAMAGE TO RIGHT PORTION OF WINDSHIELD, AND POSSIBLE FRONT GRILL DAMAGE

Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call Valley Traffic Detective Krajchir, at (818) 644-8034. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7. Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477). Tipsters may also contact Crime Stoppers by texting the word “TIPLA” and the message to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone. Tipsters may also go to www.lacrimestoppers.org, click on “Submit a Tip” and follow the prompts.

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An arrest has been made in the case discussed here recently in which a driver was accused of threatening cyclists on Angeles Crest Highway.

According to the Arcadia Patch, Earl Clyde Cox of La Crescenta threatened two separate groups of cyclists along the highway in a road rage incident.

Frighteningly, he reportedly told deputies that the riders weren’t being considerate, so he appointed himself as a driveway vigilante fashion and set out to teach them some manners.

I have a feeling he’s going to learn some the hard way himself.

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There’s good news from Sacramento for a change, as the proposed three-foot passing law passed the state Assembly’s Transportation Committee.

According to the California Bicycle Coalition, the measure passed on an 8 to 5 vote after an hour of impassioned testimony, including support from Bakersfield Senator Michael Rubio, who spoke as a private citizen and cyclist.

Not surprisingly, the AAA — both NorCal and SoCal editions — came out strongly against the bill, suggesting that it be made optional for drivers. So basically, they think their members should have the right to buzz you if the mood strikes.

Meanwhile, a lobbyist for the Teamsters insisted on their members’ right to continue killing cyclists by passing too closely.

Now the bill moves on to the full Assembly, which means it’s time to flood your own representative with letters of support for SB 910.

Let’s end with this quote from CBC Executive Director Dave Snyder —

“…Yesterday’s hearing offered a sobering reminder of how far California still has to go to ensure that everyone who uses the roads can do so safely. It’s disturbing to see AAA and the Teamsters try to defeat a measure that would give drivers – those with the greatest potential to harm others on the road – clear guidance on how to share the road more safely. Drivers who ride bicycles or know someone who does should be deeply concerned about how they’re being represented before lawmakers in Sacramento.”

On second thought, let’s end on this from Cyclelicious, as he urges you to support another bill, SB 582, that could begin to level the playing field for those who prefer to commute via something other than four wheels.

Like a bicycle, for instance.

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There’s been a non-development in Dr. Christopher Thompson’s appeal of his conviction in the Mandeville Canyon Brake Check, in which the Good Doctor tested his stopping power by slamming on the brakes in front of two riders, seriously injuring both.

According to cyclist/attorney Dj Wheels, the oral arguments scheduled for Wednesday have been cancelled after Thompson’s attorney declined to argue his case.

Evidently, that’s not unusual. And since the appellant chose not to appear, the attorney for the People of California chose not to appear, as well. After all, there’s no point in responding when there’s no one to respond to.

So what’s next?

Brace yourself. According to Wheels,

In the normal course, the case will be “submitted” tomorrow (Wednesday), without oral argument, and the court will have 90 days from that date to file its opinion.  If the conviction is affirmed, appellant will have the opportunity to seek rehearing, if he can identify a very specific error in facts in the Court of Appeal.  He can also, and universally will, file a petition for review in the California Supreme Court, identifying specific issues under specific conditions that would justify a  grant of review in the Cal. Supreme court.  He may also collaterally attack the conviction in the California courts by means of a writ of habeas corpus.  For those federal claims that have been exhausted in state court, he may then file a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the federal district court, which could lead to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the US Supreme Court.

In other words, we’ve got a long damn row to hoe before the case involving this particular repellant appellant is finally settled.

……..

Jury selection is scheduled for Wednesday in the case of Gordon Catlett Wray, the driver accused of killing local scientist and cyclist Doug Caldwell and injuring fellow rider Scott Evans; opening arguments will follow either Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning, depending on what time jury selection concludes. The trial will take place at the San Fernando Courthouse, 900 Third Street in the city of San Fernando, case #0SR05313. Cyclists are urged to attend to show their support for the victims.

Update: I’ve just been informed that the charge against Wray is misdemeanor vehicular homicide; as always, that could be reduced if there’s a settlement.

Thanks to John Stesney for the reminder.

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Outrage from cyclists has had an effect in Mississippi, as a local DA has agreed to reopen the investigation into the hit-and-run driver who ran over a cyclist, got out of her car to look at her, then got back in and ran over her again. The victim was victimized yet again when authorities concluded that her actions weren’t prohibited under Mississippi and there was nothing they could charge her with.

Hopefully, a more thorough scouring of state laws will turn up something this time.

Personally, I vote for attempted murder. Or at the very least, a couple counts of assault with a deadly weapon.

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Finally, thanks to George Wolfberg, and Tim Rutt of Altadenablog, for forwarding the New York Times report on noseless saddles designed to help put a little less pressure on the groins of male riders, and help them get a little more wood out of the saddle.

Not that you have a problem with that, of course.

Legal update: DUI driver arraigned for injuring Adam Rybicki, Valencia sentencing today

These days, it seems like there are as many court cases involving cyclists than there are riders on the streets.

Fortunately, cyclist/attorney Dj Wheels has done his usual great job of keeping us up to date with the latest legal proceedings — including charges against the under-aged, allegedly intoxicated driver who ran down who hit Adam Rybicki head on, and Thursday’s sentencing for Marco Antonio Valencia, convicted in the hit-and-run DUI death of Joseph Novotny.

Editor’s Note: While Dj Wheels provided updates on these cases, any commentary or information beyond the actual status of the cases are mine. So blame me, not him.

Jaclyn Andrea Garcia:  Charges were filed May 19th at the Torrance Courthouse for the DUI collision that critically injured cyclist Adam Rybicki this past April. The Supervising Judge recused all the judges there from hearing the case, with no public explanation for his actions; however, rumor has it that Garcia’s mother is a court reporter in Torrance, which would explain the recusal.

As a result, arraignment was held Tuesday in Department 5 of the Inglewood Courthouse, Case #YA081126. Garcia’s attorney, George Bird, entered a plea of not guilty to all four counts:

1) CVC 23153(a) – DUI w/ injury
2) CVC 23153(b) – DUI w/ BAC over .08 and injury
3) CVC 23153(a) – DUI w/ injury
4) CVC 23153(b) – DUI w/ BAC over .08 and injury

Bird also informed the court on the record that his client has voluntarily surrendered her driver’s license, entered into a three-month alcohol program, voluntarily attended 18 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and has begun electronic alcohol monitoring with the SCRAM device made famous by Hollywood’s favorite outlaw.

Too bad it’s just a little too late.

Had Garcia sobered up a few months earlier, Adam Rybicki might not be in a coma right now, the victim of a 20-year old woman still drunk and behind the wheel at 7:15 in the morning.

And you can bet that none of the actions Garcia took in surrendering her license or entering rehab were her idea; it was no doubt ordered by her attorney in an attempt to show remorse and get his client released with nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

After all, it’s worked for any number of Hollywood celebrities, whose first stop after hitting the tabloids is usually a stint in luxury rehab.

And by all accounts, Garcia’s high-priced attorney knows what he’s doing. Maybe if Dr. Thompson’s attorney had ordered him straight into rehab, he might be a free man today.

Let’s hope that the court takes this case seriously, and doesn’t let yet another driver buy her way out of taking responsibility.

Speaking of the infamous Good Doctor:

Dr. Christopher Thompson:  The date for oral arguments has been continued upon the court’s own motion in the appeal of Dr. Thompson’s conviction for intentionally injuring two cyclists in Mandeville Canyon by slamming on his brakes in front of them.  The new date is now 6/29/11.

Marco Antonio ValenciaValenica was convicted last month in the hit-and run DUI death of cyclist Joseph Novotny. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for today (Thursday) at the San Fernando Court; he faces up to 24 year to life in prison.

Shawn Fields:  Fields is charged with the hit-and-run DUI death of 17-year old cyclist Danny Marin in Pacoima last October. Fields reportedly told investigators that he thought he might have hit something, because he remembered seeing sparkly dust flying over him — from the windshield shattered by Marin’s body. Pretrial/Trial Setting Conference is scheduled for 6/22.

Patrick Roraff & Brett Morin:  Roraff and Morin are charged with causing the death of rising pro cyclist Jorge Alvarado in April of last year. The two were allegedly street racing when Roraff lost control and slammed into Alvarado, who was riding on the opposite shoulder. Pretrial conference is scheduled for 7/7.

Stephanie Drew Segal:  Segal is charged with the hit-and-run DUI death of cyclist James Laing in Agoura last year (notice a theme here?). She allegedly plowed into Laing after leaving a local wine tasting room, and entered into a rehab facility after her arrest. Preliminary setting is scheduled for 6/28; Wheels notes that the docket says the DA has been ordered to have victims present, which is unusual for this type of hearing.

Renato Demartino:  Demartino is charged with the hit-and-run death of 22-year old cyclist Marco Acuapan, who died in April, four months after he was allegedly hit by Demartino’s car while riding in a bike lane in Tustin. A pretrial conference scheduled for 6/1.

Danae Marie Miller:  Miller is charged with the death of world-class triathlete Amine Britel; she was allegedly drunk and texting when she rear-ended Britel, who was riding in a marked bike lane. Pretrial conference scheduled for 7/15.

Captain John David Hines:  Hines, a Long Beach Fire Captain, is accused of plowing into cyclist Jeffrey Gordon, then fleeing the scene, despite legal, and professional, obligations to stop and render aid. He had allegedly been drinking for hours in a local bar before getting behind the wheel, and had a BAC of .24 at the time of his arrest — three times the legal limit. And once again, he reportedly checked into rehab right after his arrest. Pretrial conference scheduled for 6/17.

Satnam Singh:  Singh is charged with killing 20-year old college student Nick Haverland in yet another hit-and-run DUI — this time, in a hit-and-run rampage involving three separate collisions in a matter of minutes that left five people injured and Haverland dead. Pretrial conference scheduled for 6/14; Singh remains in custody with the Ventura County Sheriff.

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.

On zombies, boogey men, murderous drivers and Dr. Christopher Thompson

Evidently, drivers aren’t really like zombies after all.

I’ve been catching up AMC’s Walking Dead lately — a must for fans of the mindless flesh-eating oeuvre, especially those of us who prefer the classic slow-moving zombies to their zippier modern brethren.

Watching it caused me to briefly entertain the notion that those swarming undead masses hungry for human flesh might make a decent metaphor for some of the deadlier drivers with whom we find ourselves sharing the roads.

But it didn’t really fit.

While too many drivers operate mindlessly behind the wheel, and allow their cell phones and other distractions to divert their attention from the road, the simple fact is that most drivers aren’t actually out to get us, despite how it sometimes seems. And while there may be great swarms of them swirling around us, the overwhelming majority of motorists are more concerned with the minutiae of their own lives than the presence of those of us on two wheels.

And yes, that is every bit as good and bad as it sounds.

Still, there are some scattered in that great mass of humanity on our roads who really do want to cause us harm.

Think of it as the early stages of a zombie infestation, when there are still just a few infected souls feasting on the unsuspecting.

Take David Mark Clark, the Bay Area man accused of intentionally running down four separate cyclists in a six minute hit-and-run rampage, for instance.

Or the driver who made a U-turn to come back and hit Opus the Poet, nom de web of the author of Witch on a Bicycle.

As long time readers will know, Opus has made it his life’s work to report on collisions and assaults involving cyclists, and offer advice on how to avoid similar situations yourself.

But what you may not know is that he himself is a survivor of a horrific near-fatal collision that left him with lasting life-changing injuries. And the simple fact that he’s still here riding and fighting for other cyclists makes him far more than just another bike blogger in my book.

In the last few days, though, he revealed that he finally found the driver who hit him; ironically, by the time he finally found the driver, the man was already six feet under in a local cemetery, the victim of another collision. And for the first time I’m aware of, Opus explained just what happened — and what it’s like to know he’ll never have a chance to confront his attacker:

There’s not much to tell from before the wreck. Until I got hit Dallas and Richardson cops would shadow my commute route because as one cop put it “Son, you are an idiot magnet.” and they could get a month’s worth of tickets from people acting stupid around me on my after midnight commute home. Garland cops couldn’t have cared less. Just before I crossed into Garland someone in a white pickup shouted at me to “Get off the Fucking road!” and a few minutes later someone in a white pickup shouted the same thing doing about 65 MPH just before I got hit by him….

Well in spite of finding out the guy I wanted to torture to death with blunt impact trauma has already died life must go on (just not for him). I never will get to find out why he made a u-turn around a median to come back and kill me, what inspired that level of rage. I think that’s the thing that bothers me the most about this whole “resolution” thing, it doesn’t resolve anything. I want to know “Why?” so I can do something about it in the future. Of course if the answer to “Why?” is “Because I’m an asshole and don’t like bicycles on the road.” there isn’t much I can do about that except request some kind of screening during the driver’s license test that prevents people like that from ever getting a license, along with stricter laws against driving without a license, ideally the same penalties as carrying concealed without a CHL. Whatever, I’m just glad the asshole population on the roads in control of deadly weapons of mass destruction has been reduced by one.

Then there’s our own biking Boogey Man, the good doctor whose name we invoke to frighten young cyclists — knowing full well that the man who used his car to attack two cyclists in Mandeville Canyon is locked safely behind bars.

Except, as noted here recently, there’s no guarantee he’s going to stay there.

Not surprisingly, Dr. Christopher Thompson is appealing his convictions for mayhem, assault with a deadly weapon (his car), battery with serious injury, and reckless driving causing injury.

Surprisingly, though, cyclist and attorney Dj Wheels, who has followed the case from the beginning — and brought all of us into the courtroom with him — says he may have a point. While he’s still giving it some thought, he says it looks like Thompson may have some interesting, and potentially valid, arguments.

According to Wheels, Thompson’s appeal is based on six key grounds —

  1. Trial court erred when it allowed evidence of alleged prior conduct
  2. Trial court erred in finding appellant presumptively ineligible for probation
  3. Failure to object to jury verdict forms was ineffective assistance of counsel
  4. Trial court abused discretion in failing to grant probation
  5. Trial court abused discretion in awarding Peterson and Stoehr attorney fees of $20,000 each as restitution
  6. Appellant entitled to one additional day of presentence custody credit

Whether the appellate court will agree should be determined sometime next year. But it’s possible that 2011 may see Dr. Thompson back on the streets.

I think I’d rather take my chances with the zombies.

Especially the slow ones.

.………

In a victory for Santa Monica cyclists, their City Council considers relaxing the penalty for riding on the sidewalk, while the City Attorney acknowledges that the city’s bike licensing law doesn’t comply with state law.

Now if someone could just tell Long Beach.

.………

LACBC offers a cheat sheet courtesy of bike attorney Ross Hirsch in case you’re hit by a car. The new Elysian Valley segment of the L.A. River Bike Path is finally open. One of L.A.’s best wrenches (aka bike mechanic) has been running a great series of photos of bike shop decals from around the country, now gathered in one place; I have one I’ll have to send him. LADOT Bike Blog says December will be a busy month for local cyclists; you can add another Streetsblog fundraiser to the list. Highlights from yesterday’s Living Car-Free in Southern California live chat from KPCC, or read the complete transcript. The Mandoline Grill food truck offers a ride-up discount. SoCal mountain bikers will raise funds for five-year old Tyler Blick in his battle with leukemia on Friday with the 24-hour Le Tour de Tryptophan. Public bikes pop up in the Gap’s San Francisco flagship store.

Electric cars and hybrids will soon make noise to warn others on the road. Eugene, Oregon cyclists get a beautiful new car-free bridge. NYDOT Commissioner Jannette Sadik-Khan is interviewed in Esquire, while the city puts out a call for graffiti-resistant one-size-fits-all bikes for its new bike share plan. The head of AAA in the DC area insists bike lanes are part of a war on drivers. A cyclist killed Sunday in Gulfport, Alabama devoted his time to charity work, despite being homeless. Three — or maybe three-and-a-half — U.S. teams will compete on next year’s pro tour.

Here’s your chance to ride with one of cycling’s all-time greatest riders, as Eddy Merckx promises to ride in a new B.C. Granfondo. A London cyclist complains her coat seems to make her invisible to drivers; I’ve got a blue jersey that seems to do the same thing. A dog walker is upset when an off-road race blocks access to his favorite trails. A blind Scot pedestrian is injured by a hit-and-run cyclist. Spanish cyclists win the right to ride on the sidewalk.

Finally, a Kiwi writer says bikes and cars are a dangerous mix — and suggests banning them from the roads for our own good, since drivers can’t be bothered to drive safely. Tell that to Octavio Orduno, who’s still riding at age 102

Breaking News: Dr. Christopher Thompson appeals conviction in Mandeville Canyon case

Seriously.

You knew it wasn’t going to be that easy.

This morning I got an email from Steve Magas, one of the out of state lawyers listed over there on the right. And someone who’s rapidly becoming one of my favorite writers about bicycling issues.

Case in point, his latest piece in which he brilliantly eviscerates Eagle County, Colorado DA Mark Hurlbert — the prosecutor who inexplicably refused to file felony charges against a wealthy local resident accused of critically injuring a cyclist/transplant surgeon in a hit-and-run.

Because it might, you know, affect his ability to keep earning massive commissions managing financial portfolios for his multi-millionaire clients.

Tres tragique, mais non?

I’m sure Dr. Christopher Thompson wishes the local D.A.’s office had considered his ability to earn a living and dropped the charges against him in the Mandeville Canyon case.

Then again, you could probably say the same thing about everyone behind bars right now.

Although after seeing how expertly Magas picks the case apart, I definitely wouldn’t want to be the opposing attorney who has to face off against him in a court of law.

Anyway, since he’d referenced the Thompson case in his piece, Magas wanted to know if I knew the current status of the Good Doctor. Like if and where he was in jail, and whether he still had his medical license — and if he was appealing his conviction.

You can probably tell where this is going already.

Frankly, I’d been curious about that myself. So I set my work aside, and started doing a little digging.

First up, I used California’s shiny new Inmate Locator page, which revealed that Dr. Thompson is currently incarcerated at the medium security California Rehabilitation Center in Norco.

A little searching on the website of the Medical Board of California led to the discovery that his medical license has been suspended — not exactly a problem at the moment, since he won’t be in any position to use it for a few years — as well as an apparently unrelated malpractice conviction.

The remaining question was a little harder to answer.

In fact, I didn’t have a clue how to find out if he’d filed an appeal.

So I reached out to a couple of the other lawyers there on the right — Ross Hirsch, currently representing hit-and-run victim Ed Magos, and Daniel Jimenez, a cyclist and attorney who frequently contributes to these pages. And either of whom I’d want on my speed dial if I needed a lawyer.

And after a brief exchange of emails, Jimenez emailed back with the news we’ve probably all been expecting and dreading in equal measure.

Thompson’s attorney filed a notice of appeal with the 2nd District Court of Appeal in January, with the opening brief filed on the 4th of last month. The response from the California Attorney General’s office is due on December 3rd, with a reply from the defendant due about three weeks later. Arguments will then be heard sometime around February or March in Division 7 on the 3rd floor of the Ronald Reagan State Building Downtown.

And yes, it will be open to the public.

In case you want to keep up with it yourself, you can track the status of case on the appellate court’s website, using Appellate Case #B221794.

So you can relax. For now.

Dr. Thompson will remain safely behind bars for at least the next few months. And if current vote counting trends continue, it may be up to the man whose office helped put Thompson away to make sure he stays there.

But keep your fingers crossed.

Because if this appeal goes the wrong way, he could be back on the streets, brake-checking cyclists by spring.

.………

KCRW’s Kajon Cermak offers a great history of L.A.’s proposed anti-harassment ordinance that would make any threats harassment or assault against a cyclist a civil violation, subject to an award of up to $1000. As she notes, it will be heard before the full City Council Wednesday morning at Downtown City Hall; if it’s approved there, it will go back to the City Attorney’s office to draft the actual ordinance.

See you there.

But not Kajon; she has to work, and help get all those people stuck on the 405 safely to their exit of choice.

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