Tag Archive for Highland CA

Failed justice — alleged street racing killer of pro cyclist Jorge Alvarado gets off with just 90 days in jail

Pro cyclist Jorge Alvarado, a victim of our streets. And our legal system.

Sorry Jorge.

America let you down.

Or more precisely, San Bernardino County let you down, along with a court system that inexplicably denied you the justice you deserved.

You came to this country to live out your dream of becoming a professional cyclist. We sent you back in a coffin, the victim of two then-high school students who couldn’t manage to keep their feet off the gas pedal.

And then let the driver who killed you off with the barest slap on the wrist, as if your all-to-brief life had no meaning or value.

Less time than he might have gotten for killing a dog, in fact.

A lot less.

It was over two years ago, in April, 2010, that you were riding on Greenspot Road in Highland, just north of San Bernardino, training for your new role as a rider for the Bahati Foundation Pro Cycling Team, founded by Compton’s own former national crit champion Raahsaan Bahati.

It was your big break.

A chance to prove yourself as a rising rider on a new pro team with a then-promising future.

You had no way of knowing, as you rode along that country road, that your dream would end at age 27, in the field on your right.

Maybe you reacted to those cars zooming towards you. driving far too fast. You probably saw one try to pass the other at around 80 mph, and watched in horror as the other driver cut hard to the left to keep him from passing. That sent the first car, driven by Patrick Roraff, back to the right, where he hit the shoulder and lost control, skidding across the road directly into you.

You probably hit your brakes and tried to swerve.

But it was too late.

At that speed, nothing you did or might have done would have made any difference.

I wonder if you muttered an obscenity as you saw the situation unfold. Or did you whisper one last prayer, or the name of a loved one just before the out-of-control car barreled into you, slamming you into the bushes on your right?

Were you aware of what was happening? Did you know you were dying there alone on the side of the road, thousands of miles from the people you loved?

Or did you slip mercifully into oblivion, a loss of consciousness masking the pain from your broken body?

The young men who took your life were arrested, and eventually, charged with your murder.

But that’s where the wheels of justice seemed to slowly slip off the tracks.

The long wait for charges to be filed combined with endless legal delays to push any promise of justice back time and again.

Meanwhile, Roraff and co-defendant Brett Michael Morin, who was driving the other car, were able to graduate from Redlands East Valley High School. And even with a pending homicide charge, Roraff remained the star of his high school soccer team, and went on to play soccer at the University of Redlands. Perhaps foreshadowing the leniency to come, the judge even gave permission for him to travel to Texas with his team.

God forbid that killing another person should be enough to negatively impact someone’s athletic career.

Even though yours ended that day at Roraff’s hands.

To be fair, he did say he was sorry.

It looked, ever so briefly, like you were going to get the justice you deserved when Patrick Roraff finally changed his plea to guilty. Given the seriousness of the charges — felony vehicular homicide with gross negligence and a serious felon enhancement — he should have faced serious prison time.

But he doesn’t.

Instead, the judge imposed a sentence that is far closer to a pat on the back than a slap on the wrist.

Roraff was sentenced on Monday to just 90 days in jail, with three years probation, along with community service.

Ninety lousy days. And probably a lot less than that, given this state’s over-crowded jails.

That’s less that three months for what was initially described as an illegal street race  — a felony in the state of California, by the way, for which neither driver was charged — resulting in a man’s death.

And let’s be clear. This was not an accident.

Your death was the entirely foreseeable consequence of a conscious decision to use two potentially deadly motor vehicles as oversized Hot Wheels toys.

You were just collateral damage.

The court used this case to send a message — that killing another human being while recklessly endangering the public is no big deal.

So go ahead and do whatever the hell you want on the roads, because there won’t be any serious consequences.

Especially if you have athletic skills, evidently.

They might as well have thrown Roraff a party for decreasing the excess cyclist population in the county.

It matters.

Not just because you were denied the justice you so richly deserved. But because cyclists are vulnerable on the streets, subject to the whims and careless actions of those with whom we share them.

It’s the protection we receive from the police and courts — or don’t — that dictates whether those streets will be survivable. And on that count, this court failed us miserably, putting every cyclist at greater risk.

Maybe Roraff is deserving of a second chance. But by failing to give him the sort of sentence his crime called for, the legal system missed an opportunity to show things like this can’t, and won’t, be tolerated.

And making it that much more likely that it will happen again.

There’s no word on when Roraff will begin his sentence.

It’s possible that his jail time may be delayed so he can compete again this season. If not, he’ll do his time, and be free to play again; maybe even transferring to a larger school now that this is no longer hanging over his head.

Why he received this gift from the court, I have no idea. I could speculate, but it would be nothing but a guess.

And not a pretty one, at that.

The sudden guilty plea suggests that this may have been a plea bargain. If so, I would question whether any District Attorney who signed off on a deal like this is fit to remain in office.

If not, I hope local voters will keep this case in mind when the judge comes up for reelection.

And why Roraff’s co-defendant continues to fight his charges when he could get a sweet deal like this is beyond me.

Maybe he’s not a star athlete.

To say I’m disgusted is to put it mildly.

I’m sorry, Jorge Alvarado.

We failed you.

You deserved better. You deserved justice.

But like far too many people who needlessly die while riding a bike, you’re not going to get it.

And absolutely nothing about this case will keep it from happening again.

……..

Update: Cyclist/attorney Dj Wheels fills in some of the blanks in this case.

According to information on the website for the San Bernardino County Superior Court, the sentence was imposed by judge William Jefferson Powell, who was appointed to the court by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006.

Roraff was sentenced to 90 days in county jail, and taken into custody immediately after the hearing. Which means he should be back on the streets by early November at the latest, followed by three years of supervised probation; the judge also ordered his license revoked for a period to be determined by the DMV. 

And Roraff was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service, half of which must involve discussion of the dangers of reckless driving. 

The terms of his probation also prohibit the possession of deadly weapons; in his case, maybe that should include motor vehicles.

Breaking news — Road racing killer of pro cyclist Jorge Alvarado pleads guilty

Big breaking news from San Bernardino.

I’ve just been forwarded an email indicating that Patrick Michael Roraff has entered a guilty plea in the death of rising pro cyclist Jorge Alvarado.

According to the email from Velo Club LaGrange Race Program Director/Elite Men’s Team Manager Stu Press, Roraff pleaded guilty to charges today. He’d been charged with a single count of felony gross vehicular manslaughter with a maximum sentence of six years in state prison.

Alvarado was on a solo training ride on Greenspot Road in Highland, northeast of San Bernardino on April 8, 2010 when a car driven by Roraff went out of control while street racing and hit Alvardo, who died at the scene. Roraff later apologized for his actions.

The driver of the other car, Brett Michael Morin, was also charged in the same case; the San Bernardino County Court website indicates he’s scheduled for a disposition/reset hearing on August 15.

Roraff will be sentenced at 8:30 am on August 6th, in Department S26 of the San Bernardino County Court.

According to Press’ email, cyclists are encouraged to attend and make a brief (2 – 5 minute) victim impact statement stating how Alvarado’s death has impacted you. That can be anything from whether you knew him and suffered a direct loss, or if it has affected you in other ways, such as being afraid to ride for fear of similar incidents.

While his plea change suggests that a plea deal may be in place, a big turn out could still influence the sentence the judge imposes.

Pro cyclist Jorge Alvarado killed by street racer in San Bernardino area

Bahati rider Jorge Alvarado, from the VeloNews forum

These are the stories I hate to write.

Yesterday morning, a rising pro cyclist was killed in a collision with “car full of teenagers” in Highland, CA, northeast of San Bernardino.

Jorge Alvardo, a 27-year old native of Mexico living in Ontario, was on a training ride, riding on the shoulder of southbound Greenspot Road. A car headed north lost control, crossed over to the other side and continued up the west shoulder, apparently hitting Alvarado head on. According to the Press-Enterprise, he died in a field about a half-mile east of Santa Ana Canyon Rd.

The collision occurred at approximately 9:52 am. Drugs and alcohol don’t appear to have been a factor; however, late reports indicate the 18-year old driver was racing with two other cars when he lost control at over 70 mph. Amazingly, no arrests have been made.

Alvarado was one of  several cyclists added to the Bahati Foundation Pro Cycling Team earlier this year, including former Tour de France winner Floyd Landis, who was later stripped of his victory. The team was founded by former Major Motion and Rock Racing star Rahsaan Bahati, a Compton native and the 2008 U.S. National Pro Champion in Criterium. The team’s Facebook page is rapidly filing with condolence messages.

Condolences to his friends, family and teammates.

Thanks to the Trickster for the heads-up.

Update: The latest news from the Press-Enterprise says the collision occurred at 9:45 am. Rather than “a car full of teenagers,” there was one passenger in the car that hit Alvarado, driven by 18-year old Patrick Roraff; all three cars were driven by seniors from a local, as yet unnamed, high school.

According to VeloNews, Floyd Landis and Bahati Foundation CEO notified Alvarado’s brother of the death, as of this morning, he was still trying to notify their parents in rural Mexico.

Alvarado won the recent UCLA Road Race and finished 5th in the Redlands Classic Pro/Am Criterion, and was scheduled to compete in the Dana Point Grand Prix this weekend.

Team Director Rick Crawford summed it up in the VeloNews story.

“For the love of God, you don’t want to wait until someone is gone to let someone know how you felt about them,” said Crawford.

“If there’s anything positive about this, it’s that he was on top when his life ended,” said Crawford. “He was winning races and he was on the team and loving it.”

Read more at VeloNews.

Update: The Press-Enterprise has posted a more detailed report online.

……..

On the other side of the country, Boston cyclists have suffered a rash of serious collisions, with at least one fatality.

A 22-year old cyclist described by his father as  “very, very safe” rider was killed in a collision with an MTA bus. The incident evidently occurred when he struck trolley tracks embedded in the street, throwing him under the bus.

The stories absurdly note that he was not wearing a helmet; for anyone unclear on the subject, a helmet will not save anyone’s life if they get run over by a bus.

Meanwhile, as noted last night, another Boston cyclist suffered life-threatening injuries in a crash with a car in the same area.

……..

These incidents may have happened on the other side of the country or far from L.A. in San Bernardino County, but they offer a warning to cyclists everywhere.

This time of year, people seem to be focused more on enjoying the spring weather and less on driving safely. I’ve noticed it lately on my own rides, as I find myself dodging far more cars and having more close calls than usual.

So be careful out there.

Drivers may not be watching for you. So you have to be watching for them.

Thanks to Peter for more information on the Boston collisions. And note that I try not to use the word accident — virtually every collision involves unsafe road conditions, or carelessness or traffic violations on someone’s part.

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