Tag Archive for Dr. Christopher Thompson

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.

The bike court beat goes on

Christian Stoehr and Ron Peterson speak outside the courthouse following the Thompson conviction last November; at left is Josh Crosby, Patrick Watson is partially visible in back. Photo courtesy of Jared Shier.

Cyclist/Attorney DJ Wheels wrote the other day to provide updates on pending court cases involving cyclists.

First up is the case of an Orange County woman charged with striking and killing a 49-year old Irvine cyclist in an early morning collision on December 9th, then driving off, leaving a 300 yard pattern of debris — yet amazingly, was forgiven by the victim’s family.

Patricia A. Izquieta (Case #09HF2198) – Victim – Don Murphy

A hearing was held February 18 for arraignment, but no plea was entered yet and arraignment was continued to March 19 at the Santa Ana Courthouse.

She is charged with:

1) one felony count of hit and run with permanent and serious injury – CVC 20001(a)(b)(2)

2) a special allegation of inflicting great bodily harm, which is attached to the hit and run – Penal Code 12022.7(a)

3) one misdemeanor count of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence – Penal Code 192(c)(2)

4) one misdemeanor count of driving without a valid driver’s license – CVC 12500(a)

Next is the underage driver with a long list of priors who was charged with killing a Santa Clarita man and injuring three others in a drunken hit-and-run; tests showed that in addition to a blood alcohol level over twice the legal limit, he was also high on methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana at the time of the 11 am collision.

Marco Antonio Valencia (Case # PA065011) – Victim – Joeseph Novotny & 3 other injured cyclists

There was a pretrial conference and re-arraignment on January 22. Four separate counts for DUI — two counts of 23153(A) and two counts of 23153(B) — were dropped. I think the charges were initially filed separately for all the various substances that came up in the toxicology report. However, there are still two remaining DUI counts. He plead not guilty to all the charges in the amended complaint. Another pretrial conference is set for March 23 at the San Fernando Courthouse.

1) one felony count of murder with malice aforethought (2nd degree) – PC 187(a)

2) one felony count of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence – PC 191.5(a)

3) one felony count of driving under the influence causing bodily injury – CVC 23153(a)

4) one felony count of driving with a BAC over .08 causing bodily injury – CVC 23153(b)

5) four felony counts of hit and run causing serious or permanent injury – CVC 20001(a)

6) one felony count of driving with a suspended or revoked license due to a prior DUI – 14601.2

Then there’s the case of the Malibu driver who fled the scene after running down two riders nearing the end of the L.A. Wheelmen’s 200 mile Grand Tour; killing a father and critically injuring his son. The tragedy was compounded by reports that the driver wasn’t a bad guy, but made a fatal error by driving after drinking, and destroyed two families in the process.

Robert Sam Sanchez (Case # SA071910) – Victim – Rod Armas & Chris Armas injured

A preliminary setting was heard on February 11.  The court ordered a pre plea report pursuant to PC 1203.7.  Sanchez counsel consented to an pre plea interview, but the defendant may not be interviewed about the facts of the case.  The defendant was also ordered to the probation department and also ordered to appear at the next court date, which will be March 11 for another preliminary setting hearing at the Malibu Courthouse.

Charges are still the same as previously reported:

1) one felony count of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence – PC 191.5(a)

2) one felony count of driving under the influence causing bodily injury – CVC 23153(a)

3) one felony count of hit and run causing serious or permanent injury – CVC 20001(a)

In another case, the 18-year old driver who hit a cyclist in West Hollywood last December, causing “massive” injuries — including breaks to both hands and extensive facial injuries — fled the scene, but was arrested less than a half mile later; despite her age, she had a small amount of alcohol in her system at the time of her arrest.

Celine Mahdavi (Case #SA073459) – Victim – not named

This is the West Hollywood case, involving a young woman in a luxury SUV who made a left hook, seriously injuring a young male cyclist. Charges were filed in early February by the L.A. D.A.’s office:

1) one felony count of hit and run causing serious or permanent injury – CVC 20001(a)

2) one infraction count of a minor driving with a BAC over .01 – CVC 23136(a)

Mahdavi entered a not guilty plea to both counts on Feb. 25. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for March 22 at the Beverly Hills Courthouse.

In a case that largely went under the radar, an Orange County driver was convicted on the same day the Christopher Thompson verdict was announced in the Mandeville Canyon case. He was accused of killing a 14-year old Huntington Beach boy riding to school in the bike lane on the opposite side of the street, while texting and under the influence of prescription drugs.

Jeffrey Francis Woods (Case #08ZF0040) – victim – Danny Oates

Woods was found guilty by a jury after a 16 day trial.  He was sentenced to 6 years state prison, 3 years license revocation and ordered to pay restitution for:

1) one felony count of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated – PC 191.5(a)

However, according to the OC Superior Court website, the status of this case is listed as “APPEAL.”  Woods is still in custody.

He also includes an update on one strange, non-bike-related case involving a 71-year old former state legislator who ran over a USC parking attendant after being denied entry last December because he didn’t have the proper parking permit.

Walter Karabian (Case #0EA00275)

Apparently Karabian was trying to enter a lot for which he didn’t have the appropriate parking permit, and ended up hitting the parking attendant with his car, causing some minor injuries. Sheriff responded and arrested him; he was later released on $30,000 bail.

The D.A. rejected it for felony charges and gave it to the City Attorney, but they recused themselves due to a conflict of interest, and handed it back to the D.A. for misdemeanor consideration. Turns out Karabian has a son who is currently a deputy C.A. at the Metro Traffic Court on Hill St.

A single misdemeanor count for assault with a deadly weapon – PC 245(A)(1) was filed in early January at the East Los Angeles Courthouse by the D.A’s office. A motion was filed last month to have the case removed from the initial judge, Elaine Lu, because she might be prejudiced in this case, and the case is now before Judge Henry Barela in Dept. 7. On Feb. 18, Karabian’s defense attorney entered his plea of not guilty on his behalf; this is allowed in most misdemeanor cases. There is a pretrial hearing set for March 24, 2010.

The elder Karabian is a former deputy district attorney, former State Assemblyman and current named partner of a law firm in Monterey Park.

He concludes with the current status of two recently convicted prisoners — the driver accused of the intoxicated hit-and-run death of a Mexican immigrant in Echo Park last April, and the emergency room physician sentenced to 5 years in prison for intentionally injuring two cyclists in Mandeville Canyon on July 4th, 2008.

Alejandro Hidalgo (Case #BA35559301) – Victim – Jesus Castillo

According to the Sheriff’s Inmate locator page, Hidalgo was transferred to Wasco State Prison on January 26, 2010 after pleading guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence – PC 191.5(b).  The two year state prison sentence he received in his plea bargain is the middle-term sentence available for this charge.

Christopher T. Thompson (Case #SA06829701) – Victim – Ron Peterson and Christian Stoehr

According to the Sheriff’s Inmate locator page, Thompson was also transferred to Wasco State Prison on January 28, 2010.

Thanks to DJ Wheels for his amazing efforts to keep us up to date on all these cases — it’s a lot of work, and very much appreciated.

On a personal note, some people have questioned why I focus on negative aspects of cycling like the cases noted above. The answer is simple. I feel there’s a need to shine a spotlight on crimes like these in order to do whatever we can to ensure that they don’t happen again. And I feel we have an obligation to the victims to make sure that justice is done and that they are not forgotten.

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Streetsblog plans a fundraiser next month honoring winners of this year’s Streetsie awards. A Sacramento cyclist is killed when he “somehow” gets caught beneath a bus; yeah, like that sort of thing just happens. Three thousand riders take part in a soggy Colnago Gran Fondo in San Diego. A great manifesto on feminist cycling. Trek thinks you might confuse their bikes with their with an unrelated winery. Denver prepares to kick off what they call the nation’s first city-wide bike share program, and uses stimulus funds to close gaps in their bikeway system — and they place sharrows on medium to high volume streets, rather than quiet streets where they aren’t needed. Can private businesses cut the locks of bikes parked in the public right-of-way? 1936 sounds a lot like 2010, at least as far as bikes are concerned. Eight months of riding culminates with a final leg from Guadalajara to Playa Real; the photos alone are worth a look. Cyclelicious covers the prologue of this year’s Paris – Nice race, Boom gets off to a good start while Team Sky’s Henderson takes the first stage. The Scheck brothers may leave Saxo Bank to form their own team — and take Cancellara with them. After being denied a chance to take it, a 10-year old girl with cerebral Palsy passes Britain’s Bikeability test. The first of new bike superhighways sponsored by London’s mayor don’t exactly get glowing reviews. Did Germany send the Hitler Youth as to pre-war Britain as “spyclists?” Evidently, British cycling engineers don’t ride bike routes before they select them, either. Looking at the Japanese love affair with electric bikes. A new Dutch system paces cyclists at the correct speed to avoid red lights.

Finally, L.A’s Downtown News reports on the efforts of bike messengers to fight back again bike thieves, including the infamous — and now confirmed — report of stripping two teenaged alleged rim thieves to their underwear and donating their clothes to a homeless shelter.

Evil on trial: Perspectives on the Christopher Thompson sentencing

This is not a happy day.

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

But the sad thing is that a man like that, who clearly has so many supporters, committed such a heinous act. And that so many of these supporters don’t get that what he did was wrong.

You see, I don’t hate Christopher Thompson. I don’t even think he’s a bad man. Not that I ever met him.

He’s just a man who did a very bad thing.

That may sound odd, considering the header at the top of this page. But when I first started writing about the Thompson trial, I wanted to grab peoples’ attention and identify any posts on the subject. What I came up with was what you see above.

I thought someone would challenge me, and ask just what I meant by that. But no one ever did. Not even the Times, which mentioned one unnamed blogger who wrote under the headline “Evil on trial.”

So I never explained that it referred to what he did, not who he was.

During the course of the trial, Dr. Christopher Thompson has been variously described as a good husband, a good friend and neighbor, and a skilled, caring physician. I have no doubt that all of those things are true.

But none of that excuses what he did to Ron Peterson and Christian Stoehr on July 4th, 2008 in Mandeville Canyon. Or what he tried to do to Patrick Watson and Josh Crosby in an earlier incident, and at least one other incident before that.

Now Peterson has permanent scars, despite plastic surgery, Stoehr has had to recover from his injuries, and the others have to live with the memory of having their lives threatened. And an otherwise good man is facing 5 well-deserved years in prison.

According to cyclist/attorney DJ Wheels, who was in the courtroom today, Thompson faced his victims and apologized for his actions, wishing them good health. He claimed that he never wanted to hurt anyone, in a statement that brought tears to the eyes of his many supporters in the courtroom.

The Times quotes Thompson as saying, ” I would like to apologize deeply, profoundly from the bottom of my heart.” He added, “If my incident shows anything it’s that confrontation leads to an escalation of hostilities.”

His father also spoke to the court in support of the Good Doctor. In what Wheels described as a very emotional statement, speaking without notes, he talked about the things his son had done for the surgical community and how he had helped a lot of people. And told how a humiliated Christopher Thompson had to move back into his father’s home in Oklahoma after the incident.

That was offset by statements from three of the cyclists involved, who talked about their injuries, how dangerous it is for cyclists in L.A., and how the punishment should fit the crime. Looking directly at Thompson, Josh Crosby said, “You were upset that we were on your street.”

Judge Scott Millington clearly got the severity of the incident, despite noting that the 270 letters he’d received from cyclists urging a stiff sentence had no bearing on his ruling.

As the Times put it:

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Scott T. Millington called the case a “wake-up call” to motorists and cyclists and urged local government to provide riders with more bike lanes. He said he believed that Thompson had shown a lack of remorse during the case and that the victims were particularly vulnerable while riding their bicycles.

He sentenced Thompson to the minimum 2 year sentence for each of the two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, and added three years each for both counts of battery causing serious bodily injury; however, he ordered that those sentences be served concurrently, rather than consecutively.

There were also sentences of 1-year and 90 days for the lesser charges of reckless driving and mayhem; again, he ordered that those be served concurrently with the other sentences for a total of 5 years.

He also ordered Thompson to pay restitution for the cyclists’ medical expenses, with a hearing set for next month. And he revoked the Good Doctor’s drivers license for the remainder of his life.

However, DJ Wheels says that Thompson could be eligible for parole after serving just half his sentence, with the rest served on parole — assuming Thompson doesn’t get into trouble behind bars. And don’t be surprised if state prison authorities consider the Good Doctor an ideal candidate for early release, if plans to reduce prison overcrowding in California are put into effect.

With the felony conviction, loss of his medical license should also be a foregone conclusion — though a number of people in the medical profession have warned that it may not be as clear cut as it seems.

Of course, that does nothing to address the vitriol flying across the internet today. Like this comment that followed a story on the Arizona Star website, from a woman who claimed to be a personal friend of Thompson’s:

Not only were these cyclists COMPLETELY OUT OF LINE but they were traveling five wide on a road that is less than 9 feet across. He has NEVER injured anyone in his entire life and would never intentionally hurt someone…He caused injury to people by complete accident which could have been avoided if they had OBEYED THE RULES of the road while biking. IT IS THAT SIMPLE!!!

DJ Wheels also notes one other fact that puts this case in stomach-turning perspective. Alejandro Hidalgo is scheduled to be sentenced this Monday for the drunk-driving hit-and-run death of Jesus Castillo last April.

His sentence? Two years.

Two years for getting drunk, getting behind the wheel and running down another human being, then running away and leaving a man to die alone in the street.

Meanwhile, Thompson gets five years for intentionally injuring two cyclists, yet remaining at the scene.

What’s wrong with that picture?

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

Breaking news: Dr. Christopher Thompson sentenced to 5 years

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

More details to come.

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

Evil on trial: Stand by for sentencing

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

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

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

Unfinished business: Alejandro Hidalgo & Dr. Christopher Thompson sentencing

Jesus Castillo, a 44-year old day laborer from Sonora, Mexico, was riding his bike — his only form of transportation — on Glendale Boulevard in the early hours of Sunday, April 19th last year.  As he rode south, he was struck and killed by a car driven by Alejandro Hidalgo, who fled the scene in his Mitsubishi Gallant.

Fortunately, a witness was able to take down the license number, and police were able to take Hidalgo into custody less than two hours later, as well as tracking down a passenger in his car who indicated that Hidalgo had been driving under the influence.

According to recently married cyclist/attorney DJ Wheels, last November the District Attorney had offered Hidalgo a plea bargain that included prison time for the three charges he faced. Since he hadn’t received an update from the D.A.’s office, he decided to look into the case, and discovered that Hidalgo is scheduled for sentencing on Wednesday.

According to Wheels,

I decided to request a copy of the docket today at the clerk’s office.  I learned that on November 12, 2009, the district attorney requested that count 1 for gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated (Penal Code 191.5a) be changed to vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated without gross negligence (Penal Code 191.5b).

Hidalgo then changed his not guilty plea to no contest on this particular count.  Judge Craig Richman entered his conviction under 191.5b, a felony, and ordered him to return for sentencing on January 6, 2010 in Dept. 35 at 8:30 am.

There were still two counts of drunk driving on the original complaint, but the minutes do not state whether those were vacated as part of the plea bargain.

It should be noted that 191.5a requires a state prison term of 4, 6 or 10 years. On the other hand, 191.5b, requires imprisonment for 16 months, 2 or 4 years.

We’ll have to see what sentence the judge imposes. But even four years seems like a relative slap on the wrist for killing another human being, simply because someone felt compelled to get behind the wheel after having a few too many — or maybe merely capable of making it home in that condition — then running away and leaving a man to die in the street.

Meanwhile, Dr. Christopher Thompson is scheduled for sentencing at 8:30 am this Friday at the Airport Courthouse, after being convicted on five felony counts for intentionally injuring two cyclists in Mandeville Canyon on July 4th, 2008.

And in another tragic case, a ghost bike was installed for Robert Painter, the cyclist killed by yet another hit-and-run driver in North Hollywood last month.

……….

A reminder that it’s not just cyclists who are vulnerable to hit-and-run drivers. Will notes upcoming rides, including his rapidly growing, Five Seven Eight Presidents Ride. Biking through the snow in Cambridge, Mass. Advice on sharing the road from a cycling instructor in my old home town. New York remembers cyclists and pedestrians killed last year. Yes, that really is an impressive bike rack. How people who don’t live in SoCal keep warm on winter rides. Where are Singapore cyclists supposed to ride when there’s no good place for Singapore cyclists? 2,500 Aussie cyclists ride to raise safety awareness. A road raging driver in the UK beats a cyclist after a near collision. Finally, yet another Facebook page for people who love to see cyclists get hurt; evidently, the well of human compassion online doesn’t run very deep.

Breaking News: Christopher Thompson sentencing delayed

According to cycling correspondent/lawyer DJ Wheels, the sentencing hearing for Dr. Christopher Thompson, originally scheduled for this Thursday, has been postponed until after the holidays.

Over the objections of Asst. D.A. Mary Stone, the defense was granted a continuance yesterday, with the hearing rescheduled for 8:30 am on January 8, 2010. A reason for the delay was not given; hopefully he’ll be able to get more information later.

Update: After checking in with Mary Stone, DJ Wheels reports that the continuance was due to a recent lockdown of the North County Correctional Facility, where Dr. Thompson is being held until sentencing. According to a motion filed by the defense, the entire unit was quarantined due to the suspected presence of the H1N1 virus, which prevented the defense team from preparing a necessary psychological evaluation in time for the scheduled sentencing date.

In other news, the L.A. Times reports that a cyclist was injured in a hit-and-run collision in West Hollywood last night. The incident occurred at the intersection of La Cienega Blvd and Holloway Drive sometime after midnight; anyone with any information is asked to call the West Hollywood sheriff’s station at 310/855-8850.

Check back later today for part two of yesterday’s post, What to do when the road rages and bumpers bite.

Evil on Trial: A day after look at the Mandeville Canyon case

photo

Patrick Watson and Christian Stoehr speak outside the courthouse following the conviction; at left is Josh Crosby. Photo courtesy of Jared Shier.

After a giddy few hours, reality is sinking in.

Monday afternoon, the jury in the Mandeville Canyon case returned a verdict far beyond the wildest hopes of most cyclists. Dr. Christopher Thompson was found guilty on all seven counts of the indictment.

According to a comment from Eric, it breaks down like this:

He was convicted of the following: 
2 counts of Assault with a Deadly Weapon (245a), 2 counts of Battery with Serious Bodily Injury (243d), reckless driving (23103a), Reckless driving causing specified injury (23105a), and Mayhem (203).

He was cuffed and taken into custody immediately. As quoted in the Times, Asst. District Attorney Mary Stone put it this way:

“There’s not a cyclist in Los Angeles who would feel comfortable with this defendant out on the road after this verdict,” Stone told the court.

Jared Shier notes that six of the seven counts were felonies, with the only misdemeanor involving the incident with Watson and Crosby. Now the Good Doctor faces up to 10 years in prison for the infamous Mandeville Canyon Brake Check.

Of course, the exact sentence depends on the judge. He could take Thompson’s lifetime of healing into account, along with the fact that it was his first conviction — though his third alleged offense — and decide to be lenient.

Or he could take the previous incidents and the seriousness of the crime into account, and levy the maximum penalty. We’ll find out in about a month, with sentencing scheduled for December 3rd.

Then the inevitable appeals will begin; how much time he actually ends up serving is anyone’s guess.

One thing that is a near certainty is that this will cost the Good Doctor his medical license. And that’s a tragedy, not just for him, but for all those people he could have helped — if only he could have kept his anger in check.

On the other hand, he could be the world’s greatest ER physician, but like Peterson and Stoehr, I wouldn’t want him to touch me, either.

Even though, for once, a handful of cyclists received the full support and protection of the legal system, this entire event was a tragedy. Two cyclists were severely injured, three others threatened. And an otherwise good man, by all accounts, let his frustration and anger boil over until he used his car as a weapon, sending two total strangers to the hospital. And tearing his own life and family to shreds.

And there’s a lesson in that for all of us, cyclists and drivers alike.

All of us in the local cycling community owe a big round of thanks to the LAPD and the District Attorney’s office — and especially to Mary Stone for what was, by all accounts, a powerful and effective prosecution.

And I personally want to give a huge thank you to DJwheels, without whom it would not have been possible to cover this case in such detail. Danny, I owe you one — big time. Best wishes to you and your fiancé on your upcoming wedding.

But this is just one case. As DJwheels notes, there are at least five other cases working their way through the system in which cyclists were the victims — including the Rod Armas and Joseph Novotny cases, in which cyclists on group rides were killed by hit-and-run drunk drivers.

Then there’s the case of DJwheels own fiancé, who was injured when a group of riders were threatened by an aggressive driver who fled the scene; thank God, she had a far better outcome. Which probably explains why he worked so hard keeping up with this case.

Finally, let’s just remember to be careful out there, especially for the next few days. And try to keep those words and gestures to a minimum.

As happy as we are over the verdict, there are those in the four wheel community who are just as angry about it, and they’re armed with 2,000 pound potential weapons.

And as the Good Doctor clearly illustrated, some people aren’t afraid to use them.

In light of the Mandeville Canyon case, the L.A. Times asks if we can all share the road, along with advice on how to ride safely — and for a change, looks at it from a safe driving perspective, as well. And Damien Newton looks at the Times series, and what they left out.

……..

Dr. Alex offers 12 principles for a more effective bike plan, while Stephen Box imagines what the city could be like if the mayor rode a bike. Joe Linton looks at the new Fletcher Drive undercross on the L.A. River bikeway. Do more bikes mean more — and more severe — injuries? San Francisco prepares to move forward with their bike plan. The San Jose Mercury News takes a look at the problem of right hooks — like the one that almost hit me yesterday. Floyd Landis suspects his Tour dreams are over. Following the Texas governor’s bone-headed veto of that state’s bike safety law, Austin passes their own three-foot passing law. Bob Mionske reminds riders about the need for lights and reflectors. Beirut goes Critical Mass. New Zealand suspects a local hit-and-run driver may be targeting cyclists, while some drivers are going “berko over bisychos.” Maybe the world’s standard for bike sharing isn’t working so well after all. Finally, from my old home town, a fascinating in-depth, 18-month examination of bike/car crashes throughout the city, mapping out where and how they occurred; this should be a model for every city — including ours.

Evil on Trial: GUILTY, GUILTY, GUILTY!

No details yet, but just got a text from DJwheels in the courthouse. Dr. Christopher Thompson has been found guilty on all seven counts.  More details as they come in.

I’m taking off the comment filter for now, so feel free to offer any comments or talk between your selves.

This just in from Eric, which I’m moving up from the comment section so everyone can see:

He was convicted of the following:
2 counts of Assault with a Deadly Weapon (245a)
2 counts of Battery with Serious Bodily Injury (243d) reckless driving (23103a) Reckless driving causing specified injury (23105a)
Mayhem (203)

The first five charges are felonies, the judge would not release him on bail so he goes to jail for the moment.

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