Tag Archive for Gregory D. Totten

Guest Post: The cost of traffic violence — the daughter of a distracted driving victim speaks out

Last year, an alleged distracted driver plowed into a cyclist in Moorpark, then swerved into motorcyclist coming in the opposite direction, killing them both.

Recently, the daughter of one of those victims asked for the opportunity to tell her story. 

This is what she has to say.

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Hailey Cushman’s Story

My name is Hailey Cushman and I am Jesse Cushman’s only biological child. My dad was killed on September 12th, 2015 on his way home from work from BMW Motorcycles located in Ventura. He was hit head-on on his motorcycle in Moorpark, CA by Rachel Hill, who was later found to have been texting and driving. Hill first hit bicyclist Maciek Malish then over-corrected and swerved to hit my father. Both men were killed on impact but Hill only walked away with scratches. In fact, Hill was caught taking pictures of her injuries and posting them on her Facebook the next day as if the accident was humorous to her. This tragic event happened just 9 days before my 21st birthday (in which I had plans that were immediately cancelled and never rescheduled). Dad was going to be 44 years young in October 2015. He was born in Simi Valley, CA but lived most of his life in Reno, NV, which is where I live. Within a couple days of the accident I was down in Fillmore, CA, where dad currently lived with my grandmother, Jorja, and my stepmother, Julia. Julia and dad married in 2002. When dad moved to Southern California he was brought closer to his biological father, Joe Freas, who lives in Thousand Oaks, CA. Joe and dad were in the process of trying to rekindle their relationship after years of separation.

As a child I was lucky to have never experienced a close death in the family but that aspect has also made losing my father at this age extremely difficult for me. My dad had an exciting, fulfilling and fun life. My dad was Batman! My dad and Julia were heavily involved with cosplay and all things comics. Dad had several Batman suits that were so legit that he was in several professional photo shoots. That year dad and Julia won free tickets to the San Diego Comic Con, which they had been trying to attend for years. Dad and I enjoyed doing a lot together when I would come visit in the summer time; we would go boogie boarding in Malibu, go to Six Flags Magic Mountain several times a month (it was our favorite together), race quads (he raced professionally but he also taught me how to ride and I was too racing at just 5 years old). As a family, we would frequently play video games and board games as they owned a plethora of Monopoly games and superhero video games. We would even get the whole family involved with Rockband and have somebody on each instrument. Another big part of my dad and Julia’s life was motorcycles. They were a part of the local STAR riding chapters where they would do toy drives, poker runs and many other fun rides with the group. My grandma would always worry about dad on his motorcycle because she knew the risks but both dad and Julia were very cautious riders. I guess this proves that no matter how cautious you are in life you can never fully protect yourself from others.

Since I lost my dad my life has changed forever. I’ve had to see more psychiatrists lately for stress, anxiety and depression in order to keep my job and continue my college education (which I am close to finishing). I am so young and I have so much of my life ahead of me but my father will not be able to be there to walk me down the aisle at my wedding, be there at the birth of his grandchildren, see me graduate college or buy my first house. The Cushman and Malish family’s lives have forever been changed and will always hurt when we think about this tragic incident. We try to put our minds at ease by thinking about how Rachel Hill will have to live with what she has caused these two families for the rest of her life as well, but unfortunately, we are unable to rely upon the justice system to make her accountable. We have recently been told by the Ventura County District Attorney’s office that Hill may not even receive any jail time but only community service. The Ventura County District Attorney’s office is certainly corrupt. The CHP took 8 months to complete the police report to ensure they had all the information and evidence to create a strong case. The CHP’s recommendation was that Hill should be charged with a felony of two counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. Within 2 weeks of the Ventura County District Attorney receiving the case they decide that Hill only be charged with a misdemeanor!

Now, I am a smart and educated person. I have been going to school for 16 years (total) and this is not what I was taught in how our justice system operates! When you kill another person due to reckless driving you go to jail! End of story! Rachel Hill is only getting a slap on the wrist for killing TWO innocent people. I spoke with the assistant District Attorney who informed me that they did not have enough evidence to prove gross negligence, even though they had all of Rachel’s text message conversations showing she was texting while driving leading up to the accident. Hill has been able to spend the last 9 months with her family through the holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, which were especially hard times for both the Cushman and Malish families. Now that Father’s Day is less than one week away my heart aches just thinking about that empty feeling I will have now not being able to celebrate it with my dad. No amount of money or punishment on Rachel Hill’s behalf will ever bring my father or Maciek Malish back but it would at least be nice to have a piece of mind knowing that Rachel Hill’s life would be forever affected with jail time, a felony and two counts of manslaughter on her record for the rest of her life the same way that our family will forever be devastated about this loss and injustice. Not a single person I have spoken to agrees with the District Attorney’s decision of a misdemeanor (besides the Hill family). We need to bring attention to this obvious injustice and corruption of our justice system by bringing publicity to this case for both the Cushman and the Malish family in hopes to one day begin to heal from this tragic loss.

From left to right: dad, Julia, grandma and me. Disneyland 2012 celebrating mine and Julia's graduation, grandmas birthday and dad and Julia's anniversary.

From left to right: Dad, Julia, Grandma and me. Disneyland 2012 celebrating my and Julia’s graduation, grandma’s birthday and Dad and Julia’s anniversary.

Dad and Julia's wedding picture: June 12th, 2002.

Dad and Julia’s wedding picture: June 12th, 2002.

Dad in his amazing Batman costume!

Dad in his amazing Batman costume!

My favorite picture of dad and I at Disneyland.

My favorite picture of Dad and I at Disneyland.

R.I.P. Jesse Cushman. I love you!

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Reducing, let alone eliminating, traffic fatalities will be impossible as long as prosecutors refuse to take even the most egregious cases like this seriously. 

If you’re as angry as I am about this case, contact Ventura County DA Gregory D. Totten, and politely — but firmly — demand that the case be re-filed as a felony.

Hailey, and all the families and loved ones of both victims, deserve better.

As do we all.

Morning Links: Bike lane blocking LA CM cuts WeHo ribbon; MI takes fatal crash seriously, Ventura DA doesn’t

No hypocrisy here.

Twitter user fig4all attended the ribbon cutting for the new Fairfax Blvd bike lanes in West Hollywood on Thursday. And was surprised to see LA’s 5th District Councilmember Paul Koretz participating, since the bike lanes connect to existing lanes in his district.

Particularly since Koretz has single-handedly blocked badly needed bike lanes on Westwood Blvd at the behest of wealthy homeowners, while leading the fight to have them removed from the Mobility Plan.

Fairfax Ribbon Cutting

Is it just me, to does Paul Koretz looks a little pissed off?

Is it just me, or does Paul Koretz looks a little pissed off?

On the other hand, let’s give credit to the West Hollywood Bicycle Coalition for working to get the new Fairfax bike lanes on the street, regardless of who shows up to cut the ribbon.

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Kalamazoo bike riders say Tuesday’s tragedy is a wake-up call for cyclists to always be aware of their surroundings on the road, while others decry the news coverage focused on telling cyclists how to protect themselves from two ton ballistic missiles, rather than telling drivers not to kill innocent people on bicycles.

Over 700 members of the local community came together to pray for the victims.

Prosecutors have shown they’re taking the case seriously, filing five second degree murder charges against the driver, along with four counts of reckless driving. However, police have still not given a reason for the crash.

The mother of driver Charles E. Pickett, Jr. insists her son is not a murderer and would never crash into anyone on purpose, although his Facebook page doesn’t exactly instill confidence. Thanks to Richard Masoner of Cyclelicious for the Facebook link.

Meanwhile, Cycling in the South Bay’s Seth Davidson says another Ride of Silence isn’t going to change anything; we need to stop being silent, start filing police reports and demand changes from our local leaders if crap like this is ever going to stop.

………

Contrast the Kalamazoo case with last year’s Moorpark massacre, in which a distracted driver plowed into a cyclist, then overcorrected to hit a motorcycle rider head-on, killing both men.

Yet somehow, the Ventura County DA’s office inexplicably filed misdemeanor manslaughter charges, rather than the felony charges recommended by the CHP. Guaranteeing that the driver, 26-year old Rachel Hill of Ventura, will receive nothing more than a slap on the wrist, at best.

And eliminating whatever leverage the DA may have had to negotiate a guilty plea requiring any real jail time before the case even starts.

Needless to say, the widows of Maciek Malish and Jesse Cushman are outraged.

As any rational person would be.

KABC-7 reports Hill’s lawyer denies she was using her phone at the time of the collision; they admit she had used it a few minutes prior to the crash, but swear she’d stopped before the wreck occurred. Which fails to explain why she couldn’t manage to see the first victim or avoid either one.

So maybe she crashed into them just for the hell of it.

The charges in the Kalamazoo case shows what happens when authorities take traffic crime seriously. And this case shows what happens when they don’t.

Hopefully, the justifiable outrage to the misdemeanor counts will convince Ventura County DA Gregory D. Totten to re-file the case as a felony.

If not, maybe Ventura County voters should consider whether he belongs in the job.

Come back next week when we’ll have a guest post from the daughter of one of the victims.

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If you wonder why LA drivers speed with abandon, it’s because police can’t legally use speed guns on 75% of LA streets, thanks to the city’s failure to conduct speed surveys in compliance with California’s murderous 85th percentile law, which requires that speed limits be set to the rate 85% of drivers speed travel.

Yet conducting the surveys means limits will most likely have to be raised in order to be enforced.

Putting speeding drivers in charge of setting speed limits is like leaving armed robbers in charge of bank security. Contact your state legislators and demand a change.

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The CyclingTips website asks if professional cycling’s WorldTour is really so desperate for sponsors that it needs a team owned by a Bahraini prince with a dossier thick with human rights abuses and torture allegations; activists threaten to block next year’s Tour de France if the team participates.

Turns out a British extreme cyclist didn’t go missing on the unsupported cross-country Trans-Am Bike Race after all; he was just the victim of dehydration and a broken GPS.

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Local

Twitter user captainandstoker offers a bike cam view of the new curb-protected bike lane on Los Angeles Street. Meanwhile, groundbreaking is finally scheduled to take place on the long-promised MyFigueroa project this summer.

Richard Risemberg calls for volunteers to help out with Flying Pigeon owner Joseph Bray-Ali’s run for city council against anti-bike incumbent Gil Cedillo.

The Eastsider talks with Bicycle Kitchen founder Jimmy Lizama.

LA Eater examines a quartet of area coffee shops where cycling and caffeine collide.

Forget hi-viz. If you really want to be seen, join the LA edition of the World Naked Bike Ride tomorrow, at a location to be announced later today.

Don’t get that confused with Sunday’s non-clothing-optional LA River Ride, though, with routes ranging from a 15-mile family ride to a century ride around Long Beach and back.

Streetsblog’s Damien Newton talks with Bike SGV Programs Director David Diaz about this weekend’s Viva SGV open streets event.

 

State

The annual AIDS/Lifecycle Ride will pass through Ventura and Malibu before ending at LA’s Fairfax High School on Saturday.

A 13-year old eighth grader becomes the youngest person to graduate from Moorpark College; like the genius he is, he enjoys riding a bike when he’s not studying.

A Vacaville man has been selected as the Solano County Bike Commuter of the Year.

NorCal AAA is using ebikes to rescue drivers in San Francisco’s Embarcadero area.

 

National

Elly Blue is back to suggest that the best bike trips start on a train.

This is how Vision Zero is supposed to work. After a bike rider was killed in a collision, Tucson considers how to improve the intersection so it won’t happen again.

You don’t have to see to ride a bike, as a group of Missouri tandem riders volunteer their time and bikes to take blind people bicycling on local trails.

 

International

The Winnipeg Free Press calls the city’s proposed bike helmet law well-intentioned but misguided.

Caught on video: A British cyclist records a number of too-close passes, including one so close you can almost taste the hay bales on a passing truck.

A South African writer complains about “arrogant” cyclists who insist on using the sidewalk — albeit legally — to get around dangerous road construction work. If you’re going to ride on the sidewalk, show some courtesy to other people using it.

A Kiwi website looks at the bike-mounted device developed by the Chattanooga police department to accurately measure a three-foot passing distance. Something the LAPD needs to get its hands on so they can start enforcing the passing law here, even if they can’t use speed guns.

An Aussie writer says your safety on the streets depends on wearing fluorescent hi-viz during the day and reflectorized clothing at night. Because expecting drivers to actually pay attention to what’s on the road ahead of them is just too much to ask.

 

Finally…

If you’re going to use a blowtorch to cut a bike lock on a public beach in broad daylight, leave the controlled substances and drug paraphernalia at home. No, cyclists aren’t safer riding against traffic, and militant bike riders hardly ever interfere with traffic on purpose.

And this is what happens when you try to ride a bike through a presidential motorcade.

 

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