Guilty verdict in Scarpa DUI murder trial, bicycle parts in short supply due to bike boom, and a look back at LA bike history

That didn’t take long.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, 27-year old Mission Viejo resident Stephen Taylor Scarpa was convicted of murder for running down Costa Mesa fire captain Mike Kreza in 2018, as Kreza rode his bike on Alicia Parkway while training for a triathlon.

Or rather, on the sidewalk next to the parkway, which still didn’t keep him safe from Scarpa as he drove with a veritable cornucopia of drugs in his system after three days of partying.

According to the Orange County Register, Scarpa got at least some of his drugs from the same pill-prescribing Dr. Feelgood who allegedly supplied the gunman responsible for killing 13 people in the Borderline Bar massacre.

Which puts at least 14 deaths at the good doctor’s bloody feet.

The DA confirmed that Scarpa had participated in a drunk driving prevention program, which justified the murder charge.

Scarpa faces 15 years to life behind bars when he’s sentenced on December 10th, after jurors spent just four hours deliberating before reaching a verdict.

Which is just enough time to select a foreman, go over the judge’s instructions, and take a vote.

This is what our anonymous courtroom correspondent had to say.

Closing arguments for the Scarpa case were heard this morning. Alas, I am graveyard tonight, so I only got the morning events.

I haven’t written up the closing arguments because I’m a zombie, but they involved the Defense displaying an optical illusion, and the People reiterating every bit of evidence presented. Both sides defined legal terms and invoked the importance of impartiality and justice.

I don’t expect a lengthy deliberation.

I report with cringe that I previously misidentified the Deputy DA as Michael Feldman. I dunno how, it’s Dan Feldman in all my notes.

………

Further testimony provided last week by OCSD investigators revealed a number of pill vials found at Scarpa’s home and in the minivan searched after the collision. Each prescription was in Scarpa’s name. The gabapentin prescription was ostensibly to control seizures after Scarpa had sustained a TBI. (Consider: a man prone to seizures due to physical brain trauma, and under the influence of gaba, who believes he is ever okay to drive.)

The Defense asked the traffic investigator on the witness stand to confirm that a motorist traveling on Alicia Parkway at or near the posted speed limit would need only a fraction of a second to veer off course and traverse the lateral distance covered by Mr. Scarpa’s Windstar, and that this could occur if the driver merely fell asleep. He went on to bring up Scarpa’s previous collision, in which he had “blacked out” and smashed a parked car or two, and for which he was never charged.

The Defense attempted to have the traffic investigator admit that Scarpa had no priors. The People’s objection was sustained. The Defense then asked vaguely about Scarpa’s driving record, and after another objection, the parties briefly retreated to chambers. Upon returning, the Defense had the investigator confirm Scarpa’s lack of prior DUI arrests. For his part, Mr. Scarpa looked hopeful that “never havin’ been caught before” reflected well on him.

The People asked about the violation of CVC 21107 (an “unsafe turning movement”), to which the Defense objected. The DA changed tack, asking instead whether the cause of the collision was the Defendant’s use of drugs prior to driving. The Defense objected, citing a demand for speculation on the deputy’s part, and the Judge sustained. The seething DA’s frustration was evident, and finally both the People and the Defense again headed to chambers with His Honor. Upon returning, the People reworded the question, and the witness answered in the affirmative: yes, intoxication was absolutely a possible direct cause.

The People immediately confirmed with the traffic investigator that Scarpa had been at fault in his prior collision, and although he had not been criminally charged, the DMV chose to revoke his privilege to drive. In fact, the DMV paperwork had been discovered in a search of Scarpa’s home, along with vials of assorted prescription pills.

The maximum lawful speed at the site of the collision is 50mph. Cyclists are protected from errant two-ton machines by a 2 millimeter high wall of thermoplastic, or, if they feel this is not enough, also by an 8-inch high concrete curb. Mr. Kreza had been riding on the sidewalk prior to his untimely landing in the number three lane of Alicia Parkway. He had not been wearing a helmet, and his dad cap was found among the embankment’s shrubs.

People’s Exhibit #33 was the toxicological exam performed on blood drawn from Mr. Scarpa four hours after the collision. The OC Crime Lab pathologist, whose thesis had been on the subject of gabapentin, expounded as questioned on the use and abuse of each drug found in Scarpa’s system, and on the effects and side effects of each. The People specifically asked whether gabapentin was useful to prevent blackouts. In fact, it is not.

The People brought Mr. Scarpa’s former colleague to the stand, an HR employee of Beachside Recovery, an addiction treatment facility where Scarpa had been employed as a Behavioral Health Technician. As part of her duties in human resources at the facility, she was responsible for “onboarding” Mr. Scarpa, including training and situating him as a new hire. To this end, she made it clear that the workplace had a zero tolerance policy for drug use and required random drug testing. People’s Exhibit was Beachside Recovery’s job description document, which stresses the importance of sobriety in carrying out the duties required of BHT’s (including driving), and which Scarpa signed. After several months of employment, Scarpa resigned suddenly, stating that he had relapsed.

………

In 2011, Scarpa’s high school held an “Every 15 Minutes” event. As part of the event, a “memorial” video is created. A video montage shows DUI crash “victims” in happier times. A young lady sprints down the track straight towards the camera. As the image freezes, her name and date of death caption her smiling face. Another pretty girl dances with her friends. Her eyes lock on the camera. Her gentle smile twinkles, frozen in time as her name and death date appear on screen. A healthy young man swims powerfully toward the camera. He splashes up poolside, elbows resting on the concrete, beaming broadly. As his name pops up, jurors’ eyes whip over towards the defendant.

The video captures the aftermath of a simulated DUI collision, set up at the campus. Participating are local law enforcement and fire agencies. Scenes show the Jaws of Life in action. Shocked, gawking students. A moulaged young Stephen Scarpa. A “dead” victim immediately tarped over. Empty beer cans in the car. The teenage suspect breathalyzed and handcuffed. The ride in the back of a police cruiser. The tearful call from the jail phone. The tiny holding cell. The ambulance transport of an unresponsive young patient. Blood. Futile chest compressions. The sobbing mom in the ER.

The video is poignant and there was sniffling in the courtroom.

Throughout the school day, an actor dressed as the Grim Reaper comes into classrooms to collect the dead. The crash victim’s obituary is read aloud. (People’s Exhibit #37 is the obit written by Stephen’s mom.) That student is removed from school for the rest of the day, and a black shroud is placed over his or her desk.

The “dead” don’t return home that night. They’re taken for an overnight field trip to a local hotel, where speakers inform them of the statistics, dangers, and consequences of impaired driving. The kids retreat to their rooms, where they write a “Dear Mom/Dad, Today I Died” letter to their parents. Back at home, the parents are also writing to their “dead” child. The next day, the students gather for an assembly. The dead and their parents share the stage with a casket, and read their letters in front of the entire student body.

The video wasn’t shown in its entirety in the courtroom. As played at the school assembly, it concludes with the conviction of the teenage perpetrator. In questioning Esperanza High’s activities director on the witness stand, the Defense inexplicably pointed out that this fictional defendant had received (don’t be shocked) eight months for her felony DUI and felony manslaughter charges. The People, who had chosen to play the video in its truncated form, then inexplicably objected. His Honor overruled, and the Defense went on to ask the witness to confirm that the fictional killer had not been charged with murder.

After both sides rested their cases, the Defense requested a dismissal. His Honor did not hesitate to reject this motion.

………

Today’s common theme — the effect pandemic bike boom is having on the global supply chain.

Despite an ongoing worldwide shortage of bike parts, at least some ebike prices are starting to come down. Others are boosting prices while improving quality, like this Chinese ebike foldie.

Meanwhile, Cycling Tips offers advice on how to keep your bike running, despite the parts shortage.

And Britain’s biggest bike retailer says the shortages in the global supply chain are dragging on its bicycling business.

………

Evidently, dooring is nothing new.

And neither is decorating your bike for a parade.

Never mind that one of those guys with the flower-draped bikes could be your great — or maybe great, great — grandfather.

………

This is who we share the road with, as police look for yet another, particularly heartless, coward.

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The war on cars may be a myth, but the war on bikes just keeps on going.

New York’s Department of Transportation chief won’t commit to whether people can legally lock their bikes to street signs, even after the police confiscated a number of bicycles they claimed were locked to signs illegally. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the city’s mayor declared an end to car culture;  we’ve already seen how that worked out in Los Angeles.

But sometimes, it’s the people on two wheels behaving badly.

Leading GOP California recall candidate and conservative talk show host Larry Elder was hustled into an SUV after a failed egging from a bike-riding, gorilla-masked woman, who needs to work on her aim.

………

Local

The Long Beach Marathon says it’s quickly selling out; the race is preceded by a 20-mile bike ride along the marathon course.

Billions actress Malin Akerman is one of us, as she went for a ride through the streets of LA on a massive fat tire ebike with her son on the back.

 

State

Cypress police will conduct a bicycle and pedestrian safety operation this Saturday — but during the day, not at night, regardless of what the headline says. Ride to the letter of the law until you cross the city limits, so you’re not the one who gets ticketed. And remember the law allowing bike riders to roll stops may have passed the legislature, but it’s still not legal until the governor signs it. 

Traffic deaths went up in San Francisco despite the pandemic-light traffic, just as they did in Los Angeles.

General Motors credits bike-riding employees with working to ensure the company’s autonomous cars are programed to be aware of people on bicycles as they test them on the streets of San Francisco. If they’ve cracked the code for recognizing bike riders, let’s hope they share it with the other self-driving car makers who’ve struggled with exactly that.

 

National

Pink Bike once again takes a very tongue-in-cheek look at things that could have happened in the bike world last month, but probably didn’t. Unless they did.

A Colorado website offers four routes to experience the state’s spectacular fall colors, whether you’re on a roadie, ebike, gravel bike or mountain bike. Speaking of which, an Aspen writer calls for opening up the area’s singletrack trails to ebikes “before we’re all too old” to ride them.

The former owners of the now-defunct American bike brand Ross Bicycles pled guilty to hoarding PPE in Oklahoma last year, agreeing to pay a $1 million fine for buying over $1.2 million surgical masks from China, then reselling them to the state at a 900% markup; meanwhile, the Ross family reclaimed their original trademark for the bike brand after the federal trademark office ruled it had been abandoned.

A cruiser bikemaker came to the rescue of stranded students in Rochester NY, donating around 150 bicycles, helmets and locks to students and parents at three schools affected by a shortage of school bus drivers.

Brooklyn bike riders — and their dogs — get an early jump on the official opening of new bike lanes on the iconic Brooklyn, with one pronouncing it “stinky,” while his dog gave it three and a half paws. Out of four, presumably.

New Yorkers scrambled for alternate forms of transportation after the remnants of Hurricane Ida flooded subway system, setting a new record for usage on the city’s Citi Bike bikeshare system.

A Pennsylvania nonprofit dedicated to promoting mountain biking in Afghanistan will likely hold its signature annual event in the state’s Lehigh Valley, instead of in Afghanistan in the shadow of the towering Buddhist statues destroyed by the Taliban in their earlier incarnation.

 

International

Time Out ranks the world’s best cities, with San Francisco coming in on top, followed by Amsterdam and Manchester, England; Los Angeles checked in at a surprising #11, as they celebrated the city’s outdoor lifestyle while politely ignoring all the people forced to live there.

Road.cc looks at the best high-end, lightweight road bikes for weight weenies with money.

A letter writer from the Virgin Islands expresses his disgust at the islands’ dangerous drivers. He’s preaching to the choir.

Calgary attempts to slow drivers along a bike route by painting colorful animals onto the street, while improving the area for bike riders and pedestrians.

A former London reporter says it’s time to take a stand following the death of his friend and neighbor, a pediatrician who was killed riding her bike on a notoriously dangerous junction that is still waiting for a safety makeover promised to be finished two years ago; over 7,000 people have signed a petition demanding popup plastic barriers until permanent changes can be made.

A writer for T3 says the new relatively low-cost ebike from English scooter maker Pure Electric could be the ebike bargain of the yearAlthough it seems like Burbank-based Pure Cycles could have a decent copyright infringement case on their hands. 

You still have time to get to Limerick, Ireland in time for next week’s Bike Week.

Ride your bike eye-to-eye with ducks through a Belgian lake.

Berlin announces plans for a more than 1,800-mile bicycle network, with a three-tiered network like Los Angeles was supposed to build, and a commitment to build it out as quickly as possible. Unlike Los Angeles, where bike plans are merely “aspirational,” and the city gives itself 25 years to build them. Or not.

To the surprise of no one, the Taliban announced plans to ban women’s sports — which is why 25 members of the Afghan girls’ cycling team crossed over to Tajikistan on Monday. Thanks to Mike Wilkinson for the link.

Add this one to your bike bucket list — exploring Jerusalem on a rental ebike.

 

Competitive Cycling

Cyclist looks back at the memorable moments from this year’s Grand Tours.

 

Finally…

What it feels like to be a Peloton widow. That feeling when you appreciate a driver mistakenly insisting you have to stop at the stop sign, because he said it in a kind voice.

And evidently, vehicular cycling is nothing to monkey around with.

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Be safe, and stay healthy. And get vaccinated, already.

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