Let’s be honest.
When a prosecutor really wants to file charges in a traffic case, they’ll tear the vehicle code apart until they find something that sticks.
So when the DA’s office examines a case and concludes there’s nothing there, it’s more often an indication that they don’t want to prosecute, for whatever reason.
Like when it’s a cop who ran down a cyclist, for instance.
When the LA County DA’s office announced last week they weren’t filing charges against the sheriff’s deputy who killed Milt Olin, they concluded (pdf) that he had not violated the state prohibition against texting while driving because police officers in the course of their duty are exempted from the law. Never mind that he’d also been texting — illegally — with his wife as recently as one minute prior to the wreck.
And yet, I’ve repeatedly been told by officers from a number of different police agencies that it’s not just the act of texting behind the wheel that’s against the law, but simply being distracted while driving. For whatever reason.
From putting on makeup or eating, to simply changing the stations on the radio. And yes, some people still listen to the radio when they drive.
Anything that takes the driver’s attention away from the road is distracted driving. Or as cited by the LA Times, “wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”
By that standard, Deputy Wood was clearly distracted when he ran down Olin’s bike from behind.
In fact, by his own admission, he never even saw Olin or knew he was driving in the bike lane when he hit him at somewhere around 48 mph, which was his last recorded speed prior to the impact.
He could just as well have been charged with making an illegal lane change. Or driving in a bike lane.
Or even the catch-all violation when police can’t come up with anything else to charge a driver — or too often, a bike rider — with, violating CVC 22350, the state’s basic speed law.
After all, no speed is safe when you have no idea where you’re driving or what’s in the road directly in front of you.
And any or all of which could be used to support the sheriff’s investigator’s recommended charge of vehicular manslaughter.
So the question becomes one of why they’re not willing to file charges. Any charges.
It could, as many have speculated, be a case of looking out for their own; the District Attorney relies on police officers to build their cases, and may be reluctant to prosecute an officer as a result.
Or it could simply be that the death of a cyclist — even one as prominent as entertainment lawyer and former Napster executive Milt Olin — just isn’t worth their time.
Or it could be a cover-up.
By prosecuting Wood, the deputy could be forced to testify in his defense that, even though using the onboard computer while driving is officially against sheriff’s department policy, the unofficial policy encourages officers to do just the opposite.
Which would make higher-ups in the department complicit in Olin’s death. And could have led them to pressure the DA not to file.
Maybe there’s a more innocent explanation for the failure to charge the driver with something.
But the official explanation doesn’t hold water.
And the fact that they’ve left themselves open to this kind of speculation shows just how wrong that decision was.
If this case pisses you off as much as it does me, you’ll have your chance to demand justice for Milt Olin, and all of us, tonight.
This is an all-hands-on-deck demand for justice.
If there’s any way you can be there for all or part of it, you owe it to yourself to attend. Because the more people who participate, and the more varied the riders who attend, the better our message will penetrate the insulated offices of the District Attorney.
I’m going to do my best to attend the vigil, at least. If you don’t see me there, it means my health has knocked me on my ass once again.
From the LACBC website:
When: Wednesday, September 3
- 4:00 p.m. Meet at crash site (around 22532 Mulholland Hwy, Calabasas, CA 91302)
- 4:15 p.m. Moment of silence
- 4:30 p.m. Start ride
- 6:30 p.m. Leave from the L.A. Zoo parking lot (5333 Zoo Dr, Griffith Park, CA 90027). Other riders can meet up here.
- 7:30-8:00 p.m. Arrive at District Attorney’s office (210 W Temple Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012)
- 8:00 p.m. Candlelight vigil
The public is invited to join us at the beginning, ride with us, join us for the vigil, or meet us at any point along the way (exact route to be determined).
The route follows major streets through the San Fernando Valley and Griffith Park to Downtown Los Angeles. Riders will be expected to stay alert and follow all traffic laws. The ride is scheduled to arrive in Downtown just after sunset, therefore lights are required by law.
The route is 30 miles. Riders should come prepared with water and snacks to stay fueled.
- Start at the L.A. Zoo parking lot (5333 Zoo Dr, Griffith Park, CA 90027) for an approximately 10-mile ride into Downtown. Please arrive no later than 6:15 and be ready to ride by 6:30 p.m.
- Start in Calabasas, ride 17 miles to the Universal City Red Line station (located at Lankershim Blvd and Campo de Cahuenga), and take the Red Line to Civic Center, where the D.A.’s office is located (210 W Temple Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012). Riders who lag behind the main group will be asked to take this option.
- Join us for the vigil. People are welcome to skip the ride and meet us at the D.A.’s office. The ride is expected to arrive between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m.
- Meet us along the way. We will do our best to live-tweet our location with the hashtag #rideformilt. Follow us @lacbc.
Getting to the ride:
- The start is on a suburban section of Mulholland Highway with little to no on-street parking (approximate address: 22532 Mulholland Hwy, Calabasas, CA 91302). We recommend taking the Metro Orange Line or Orange Line Bike Path to De Soto or Canoga and riding from there. Free park-and-rides are available along the Orange Line.
- Check out the Facebook event and feel free to post feeder rides there.
Getting from the ride:
- The best option is always riding (with lights!) or taking transit.
- If you parked at a Metro Orange Line park-and-ride, take the Red Line from Civic Center to North Hollywood. Then either transfer to the Orange Line (limit 3 bikes per bus) or ride along the Orange Line Bike Path to your car.
Questions? Post them in the Facebook event or call the office at 213-629-2142 and we’ll do our best to respond before the ride.