Tag Archive for Joseph Novotny

Cyclist killed in Indio area, suspected Jim Swarzman killer released, Marco Antonio Valencia on trial

I was really hoping I wouldn’t have to write this.

Last night, the CHP reported a collision involving a cyclist in the Indio area; the cryptic feed indicated that the coroner had been called.

As I searched for confirmation, though, I found another report online that said the coroner call had been cancelled, and the rider had been transported to the hospital with major injuries. The CHP feed was later updated to indicate that, as well.

Unfortunately, the good news didn’t last.

According to a story in the Desert Sun, 39-year old Travis Carroll was pronounced dead at 8:17 last night, after being hit by a van while riding on Avenue 42 in Bermuda Dunes. The collision occurred between Washington and Adams Streets at around 7:35.

The sparse description of the collision in the Desert Sun doesn’t really make sense.

The paper reports that Carroll was riding on the north side of the street, which suggests he would have been riding west if he was riding with traffic. He then reportedly began riding southeast, which would mean he either had to make a U-turn, or had actually been riding against traffic and drifted across the roadway before being struck by the west-bound van,

However, that raises the question of why he would cross the path of an oncoming vehicle which should have been clearly visible as he faced it — especially since the paper reports that alcohol does not seem to be a factor.

According to reports, the investigation is ongoing.

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The same day Encino endurance cyclist Jim Swarzman was laid to rest at Forrest Lawn, word came that the driver suspected of killing him was released from custody.

According to San Diego’s KGTV, Joseph Ricardo Fernandez was released at the last moment before being arraigned. Reportedly, the reason stemmed from the three day limit authorities have to file charges after taking the suspect into custody.

The station indicates that the delay is due to ongoing forensic work to ensure that Fernandez’ Dodge Ram 1500 pickup was in fact the vehicle that took Swarzman’s life; following that, the DA needs to be able to show that Fernandez was actually the one behind the wheel.

I would hope that they are also investigating his actions before the collision; I suspect they may find that he was drinking heavily.

The reports I’ve heard say the collision was extremely violent; I’ll spare you the details, but it would have been virtually impossible for the driver to have been unaware he hit something, putting to question Fernandez statement to the police that he thought he might have hit something.

Unless he was in a significantly altered state, the driver had to know damn well that he hit something, making his flight afterward a purely intentional — and illegal — act.

The investigation is ongoing, and I have no reason to believe the San Diego DA’s office isn’t taking this case very seriously. But we may want to keep on top of it, just in case.

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I’ve been on the run the last few weeks, and haven’t had a chance to update the ongoing legal cases (my apologies to cyclist/attorney Dj Wheels, who has done a great job of keeping me abreast of the ongoing cases).

Wheels reports that the trial has begun in the case of Marco Antonio Valencia, charged with killing Joseph Novotny and seriously injuring three other riders in an alcohol and drug-fueled hit-and-run.

The Signal reports on yesterday’s testimony from the surviving riders; it’s difficult to read, but offers the clearest picture yet what happened on that tragic day. Here’s one brief excerpt:

Chad Lewin, 25, was riding in front of Munana and Novotny during the ride.

As Lewin was riding around a right turn, he saw the bicyclist in front of him slam on his brakes abruptly.

To avoid crashing, Lewin testified that he swerved into the roadway to his left to avoid crashing.

In an instant, he was knocked to the ground by the truck. As he slid, Lewin said his skin was ripped off — in some instances to the muscle.

“As I was sliding backward, I saw Joe 20 feet in the air and hit the mountainside,” Lewin said.

Dj Wheels has been attending some of the court sessions, and offers these thoughts:

It appears that Valencia’s defense will mainly focus on avoiding the “Watson” 2nd degree murder charge by arguing that although he was awake and able to drive, he was not “conscious” of his actions and thus did not have the required specific intent for murder, which would be implied malice.

I don’t know all the case law on these types of DUI murder charges, but essentially Watson says when you have been previously convicted of DUI, you should know all ready that driving drunk can cause serious injury or death, which would establish the intent requirement of malice.  The CA legislature later enacted CVC 23103.5.  As a resulty, many county courts and district attorneys offices for several years now have required defendants to sign a declaration admitting that you acknowledge these risks and that you may be charged with murder if someone dies as a result of their drunk driving.  I believe this declaration can also be used as evidence.

However, under CA Jury Instructions 8.47 says “If you find that a defendant, while unconscious as a result of voluntary intoxication, killed another human being without intent to kill and without malice aforethought, the crime is involuntary manslaughter.”

So my guess is that the defense will try to establish that none of the witnesses actually saw the driver of the vehicle (specifically his face/body) in the seconds before the collision and during the collision in order to establish a reasonable doubt about whether he was indeed “conscious.” I think the only defense witness will be the expert who will testify that someone can be unconscious due to voluntary intoxication, but still be awake.
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As long as we’re on the subject of biking collisions and court cases, we might as well keep going.

Danae Marie Miller will be arraigned today on one count of felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence while intoxicated in the death of world-class trialthlete Amine Britel in Newport Beach last month. She’s currently out on $100,000 bail.

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John Stesney reports that a pretrial hearing is scheduled next week in the death of local scientist and cyclist Doug Caldwell. The hearing for accused driver Gordon Catlett Wray will take place at the San Fernando Courthouse, 900 Third Street in the city of San Fernando, on Wednesday, April 20th at 8:30 am, case #0SR05313.

My sources indicate that despite numerous questions that have been raised that the defendant was using a cell phone at the time of the collision, the prosecutor either can’t get the records, or won’t request them for some reason — even though they could offer proof of distracted driving in fatal collision.

Maybe a few cyclists in the courtroom could stiffen the DA’s resolve, and show how seriously we’re taking this case.

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Dj Wheels reports that Shawn Fields was arraigned on March 30th for the heartbreaking hit-and-run death of 17-year old Danny Marin in Pacoima last year; a description of the injuries suffered by Marin — again, I’ll spare you the details — suggests another extremely violent collision.

Wheels offers some revealing testimony from the case:

According to the arresting officer, Fields was asleep at home by the time they arrived at the location where the vehicle was registered. He wouldn’t wake up at first after knocking and banging on the windows from where they could see him sleeping.  Fields also volunteered a statement before being taken to the police station that he shouldn’t have driven home because he had too much to drink at a wrap up party at the Roosevelt in Hollywood. He also saw many bottles of various alcoholic beverages inside Field’s house.

Also, the officer that administered the breath test at the station noted that his BAC was .14/.15 at about 4:15 a.m. The collision occurred about three hours earlier.

The investigating officer who interviewed Fields at the station also testified. Fields told him he got to the party around 10pm and drank a long island ice tea, a red label whiskey, a gin and tonic, beer and some water before leaving. After walking out, he had a bacon wrapped hot dog on the street, threw up on himself, debated whether to drive home, waited in his car for a while then finally drove.  He did not have a recollection of actually driving home, but recalled he may have hit something because he remembered being at a stop light close to home and looking at sparkly dust on his arms from the shattered front windshield.

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A preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 28th at 8:30 am in the San Bernardino Superior Court in the case of Patrick Roraff and Brett Michael Morin for the street racing death of pro cyclist Jorge Alvarado last April.

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A preliminary hearing is also scheduled for May 11th in the case of Stephanie Segal, charged in the drunken hit-and-run death of cyclist James Laing in Agoura Hills last October.

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Jim Lyle forwards news that Richard Schlickman, the cyclist critically injured when he lost control of his bike due to newly installed speed bumps in Palas Verdes Estates, is showing amazing progress and determination, and may be transferred to a rehab facility by the end of the month.

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Meanwhile, reports are that your prayers continue to be needed for Adam Rybicki, critically injured by an alleged underage drunk driver in Torrance on April 3rd.

A raft of legal cases — 5 deaths, 4 hit-and-runs, 1 drunken pop star and a justly jailed physician

I haven’t had a lot of opportunity lately to keep up with recent bike-related court cases, or even to update the Legal Cases page on my blog — something I’ll try to get to over the weekend.

Fortunately, local cyclist and attorney Dj Wheels continues to do an incredible job of keeping on top of what’s happening in our local courts, as well as with key trials across the country. This past week, he sent his latest update on some of the cases currently making their way through the courts.

My heartfelt thanks to Wheels, who has done more to keep the local cycling community informed than we could ever thank him for.

Shawn Fields – PA068775 (San Fernando)

Charged in the drunken hit-and-run death of 17-year old Daniel (Danny) Marin on Laurel Canyon Blvd in Pacoima on October 2nd of last year. While any cycling death leave me shaken, this is one that has hit me the hardest. Maybe it was the needless waste of a bright, well-loved young man; maybe it was because he reminds me of myself at that age. Or maybe just because I think I would have liked him if I’d ever had the chance.

Last hearing was held on January 21 – proof of compliance with discovery requests.  Although the Preliminary Hearing had all ready been scheduled for February 2, that hearing was advanced and continued to February 16 in Dept. 502 – Judge Olmedo.  Fields remains out of custody on bail.

Marco Antonio Valencia – PA065011 (San Fernando)

Valencia is charged with killing cyclist Joseph Novotny and seriously injuring two other riders in Santa Clarita’s Bouquet Canyon. He is accused of exhibiting a “willful, wanton disregard for human life,” by driving with a blood alcohol level of .18, as well as methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana in his system at the time of the morning collision. After the wreck, he reportedly told a deputy to shoot him because his life was over; unfortunately, it was Novotny whose life was ended.

After numerous continuances of the trial date, Valencia will probably be on trial by the end of February for DUI/murder charges.  The next hearing is scheduled for February 14 as a 0 of 20 for Trial.  Valencia is still in custody.

Yelena Krupen – 0BV00450 (Beverly Hills)

Beverly Hills model Yelena Krupen was charged with fleeing the scene after hitting cyclist Brandon Chau on Santa Monica Blvd in Beverly Hills, in a case that infuriated local cyclists by demonstrating just how hard it is to get justice if the rider isn’t critically injured.

She was sentenced on December 7 to 25 days county jail for misdemeanor hit and run property damage and driving on a suspended license charges, plus restitution to the victim.  She surrendered on December 27 to the women’s detention facility in Lynwood.  Her projected release date was January 6 according to the Sheriff’s inmate locator page, but it has not been updated with an actual release date.

Jose Luis Huerta Mundo – 10HM05193 (Newport Beach)

He’s charged in the death of popular OC cyclist Michael Nine, who was killed on a group ride when he collided with a truck driven by Mundo, who was in the country illegally after previously being deported. Mundo allegedly made an illegal turn on a blind corner; Nine was riding downhill at speed and was unable to avoid the truck.

Trial was held in mid November and the jury was hung.  Mundo is being re-tried.  Pre-trial conference is scheduled for February 7 and trial is tentatively scheduled for February 28.

Patrick Roraff – FSB1002475 (San Bernardino)

In another devastating case, rising pro racer Jorge Alvarado was killed shortly after moving from Mexico to the San Bernardino area to join the short-lived Bahati Foundation racing team. He was killed when Roraff was allegedly street racing another car driven by Brett Morin, who is also charged. Along with the fallout from fellow team member Floyd Landis’ doping accusations, Alvarado’s death helped destroy what had been a promising new pro team headed by a local riding hero who gives back to the community he grew up in. If you have the heart to handle it, read the heartbreaking Spanish language comments from those who knew and loved Alvarado.

Pre-Preliminary Hearing is scheduled for March 1 and Preliminary hearing for March 3.  Roraff remains out of custody on bail.

Carlos Bertonatti – F-10-001742  (Miami-Dade County, Florida)

Bertonatti is the Miami pop singer charged with killing cyclist Christophe Le Canne last year in yet another drunken hit-and-run, culminating in a police chase with Le Canne’s bike still lodged under his car. Bertonatti was still on the road despite racking up over 40 moving violations in the past 12 years.

Trial Hearing scheduled for February 22.  http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/riptide/2010/12/carlos_bertonatti_released_on.php

Dr. Christopher Thompson – B221794 (L.A. Downtown Appellate Court)

The Good Doctor was convicted in the vehicular assault of two cyclists in Mandeville Canyon on the 4th of July in 2009. Not surprisingly, he is appealing his conviction.

Attorney General’s responsive brief is due March 1, with no further continuances.  Thompson remains in custody at Wasco State Prison.

In addition to the cases Wheels mentioned here, charges were recently filed against Stephanie Segal in the drunken hit-and-run death of cyclist James Laing in Agoura Hills, and Patricia Ann Izquieta has pleaded guilty in the “drug addled” death of cyclist Donald Murphy in Newport Beach last year.

Local bike cases slowly wind their way through the courts

Cyclist, attorney and court case correspondent Dj Wheels emailed today to catch us up on the current status of the all-too-many mostly bike-related cases winding their way through the local court system.

First up is the case of Patricia Izquieta, charged with the hit-and-run death of Don Murphy in Newport Beach last December.

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

The Pretrial conference for April 16 was heard, but apparently the Preliminary Hearing which was scheduled for April 26 was cancelled and rescheduled. There is now a Pretrial conference scheduled for May 14 and the Preliminary Hearing for June 17.

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 up is Marco Antonio Valencia, the hit-and-run driver who was reportedly high on alcohol, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana when he killed Joseph Novotny and injured three others.

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

There were pretrial conferences heard on March 23 and April 8 at the San Fernando Courthouse. Another pretrial conference was scheduled for May 18.

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

Robert Sam Sanchez is charged with the hit-and-run death of Rod Armas and seriously injuring his son Chris in Malibu during the L.A. Wheelmen’s Grand Tour last year.

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

The Preliminary Setting conferences scheduled for March 11 and April 19 were both heard at the Malibu Courthouse. Another Preliminary Setting conference was scheduled for Friday May 7 at 1:30pm. What’s interesting is that the docket says, “VICTIMS WILL BE PRESENT TO MAKE STATEMENTS.” I called the DA’s office in Malibu to find out what this meant. Deputy McIlvain explained to me that May 7 is a Preliminary Setting Conference, and a disposition (plea bargain and sentencing) may be possible on that day. However, she is not allowed to disclose the terms of the offer for the plea at this point. If it is accepted, the case may reach a resolution that day, otherwise they’ll move forward with the Preliminary Setting conference to schedule a date for a Preliminary Hearing. I’m going to make my best effort to be there next Friday.

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)

Celine Mahdavi is charged with the West Hollywood hit-and-run (notice a common theme here?) that seriously injured professional cyclist Louis “Birdman” Deliz.

Celine Mahdavi (Case #SA073459) – Victim – Louis Deliz

Preliminary Setting conferences were heard on March 22 and April 23 at the Beverly Hills Courthouse. A date of June 11 was scheduled for the Preliminary Hearing.

Charges:

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)

William Keith Square was arrested in the hit-and-run death of a still-unnamed cyclist in Carson earlier this month; at last report, authorities had not been able to locate the victim’s last address or next of kin.

William Keith Square (Case #TA11183201) – Victim – not named

On April 17, Square killed a cyclist in Carson with his car and left the scene. Luckily a witness wrote down his license plate # and Sheriffs arrested him at his home in Long Beach. The Inmate locater page says the arraignment is scheduled for May 5 at Compton Municipal Court. It also says that Mr. Square was arrested on April 18, assigned to permanent housing on April 24 at 4am, and then released from custody at 7:47 am. This is strange because usually it will also state the bail amount, but it doesn’t in this case. Bail for something like this should be something like $100,000, of which a bail bonds company usually asks for 10% to post bond for you.

Charges: (I haven’t seen the docket yet, but I’m assuming the charges are going to be these.)

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)

Former state legislator Walter Karabian faces charges for assaulting an unnamed parking lot attendant with his car during a USC football game last fall.

Walter Karabian (Case #0EA00275) – unnamed parking lot attendant near USC campus

The Pretrial conferences for March 24 and April 23 were heard. At the last hearing, Karabian’s defense attorney, Joseph Gutierrez, was granted a motion for sanctions against Classic Parking for failure to provide subpoenaed documents. Classic Parking is to pay the defendant $500. Another Pretrial conference is scheduled for May 13 at the East L.A. courthouse.

Finally, no charges yet in the death of Bahati Foundation cyclist Jorge Alvarado, who came to this country to fulfill his lifelong dream of riding professionally, only to be killed when 18-year old Patrick Roraff allegedly lost control of his car while street racing.

Patrick Roraff (Case #?) – Victim – Jorge Alvarado

This 18 yr old man killed Jorge Alvarado of the Bahati pro cycling team on April 8 while street racing on Greenspot Road out in San Bernardino. According to the SB County Court online case info page, charges have still not been filed against Roraff.

Hopefully, the local authorities know that the cycling communities of two countries are watching this case closely; the comments in Spanish from the people who knew him are truly heartbreaking.

Special thanks to Dj Wheels for his amazing work in keeping us on top of these cases; if anyone needs a good young lawyer who knows bicycling, let me know.

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In better news, the jury in the case of the New York Critical Mass-bashing cop returned a verdict of guilty for filing a false criminal complaint, but acquitted him of misdemeanor assault.

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A former Republican candidate for Lt. Governor in Wisconsin offers a first-person account of an intentional attack by a truck driver; unclear is whether he was attacked for his politics or because he was on a bike.

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LACBC encourages you to say thanks to your yes-voting council member. USC’s Neon Tommy takes a look at Bikeside, which endorses Winograd for Congress. Stephen Box celebrates a successful campaign to get safe bike parking at the new police headquarters; on the other hand, UCLA’s bike lockers could use some work. Carless Valley Girl debates whether to ride bespectacled; always cover your eyes with something says the man who’s seen bees bounce off his lenses, among other things. You might want to stay off the road while the mayor’s girlfriend is on it.Cyclelicious talks to the producer of the upcoming Major Taylor biopic. A Long Beach intersection gets a road diet, creating more space for diners, walkers and bike racks. Ciclovia comes to San Diego starting tomorrow.

The mindset of the female bike commuter, who rides faster and looks better than the boys do. Biking in Chattanooga — no relation — directs your attention to an exceptional biking artist. The Maryland Senate passes five bike-friendly bills, including a three-foot passing law. The cross-country travelling, penta-biking Pedouins are approaching Portland. A Fort Myers FL ministry donates bikes to the homeless. A kosher Crown Heights bike loan shop turns to sales. NPR offers songs for the urban cyclist.

More doping rumors for pro cyclist Alejandro Valverde. After yet another London cyclist is killed, Mayor Boris calls for more stringent testing of drivers. What to do when you’re riding in Scotland and your wheel falls off. A new British motorists’ guide urges cyclists to claim the lane, while a leading bike group says cyclists could hold the key to the upcoming election. A bike racing Canadian novelist comes to the defense of Lycra with rants tips for cyclists. A day after Lexus announced their high-concept bike, Volkswagen unveils a folding electric prototype.

Finally, Bike Portland discovers, as many of us do sooner or later, that middle fingers do not lead to productive dialogue; I like the advice someone else gave him, “The peace sign only takes one more finger.”

I think I’ll have that tattooed on the back of my hand so I see it when I ride.

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.

Bike cases fill the dockets — Dr. Thompson was just the beginning

As Bob Mionske noted in the Times last week, the Thompson case does not represent a sea change for cyclists.

It was just one case, with unique circumstances. Like driver who admitted trying to “teach them a lesson.” A car with a unique, memorable license plate. And at least three other cyclists who could testify to similar incidents involving the same car, and the same driver.

Not to mention a police department that took it seriously — which isn’t always the case.

Unfortunately, it’s also just the tip of the iceberg.

As cyclist/attorney DJ Wheels pointed out recently, while Thompson got 5 years for intentionally injuring two cyclists, Alejandro Hidalgo got just two years for getting drunk and killing Jesus Castillo, then fleeing the scene.

Call me crazy, but on my balance sheet, Intoxication + Death + Running Away outweighs Intent + Injury. Even if it wasn’t the first time.

And that’s just the first of at least 10 other cases involving cyclists working their way through the investigative and legal process in the L.A. area.

Like Teri Hawkins, for instance.

She reportedly ran a stop sign before striking a cyclist, knocking him 30 feet through the air. The 40-year old Simi Valley resident turned herself in to the police 4 days after the hit-and-run collision that resulted in “major injuries” to the 26-year old rider, who has not been publicly identified.

After pleading no contest to hit-and-run with injury (CVC 2001a), her request for probation was denied and she was sentenced to 16 months in state prison last week, with credit for 76 days time served. Hawkins was also ordered to pay restitution, with a hearing scheduled for Tuesday in the San Fernando courthouse.

Wheels notes that turning herself in may have been a mitigating factor in the relatively low sentence — although it should be noted that her conscience seemed to kick in after her car had been located and impounded by the police.

Wheels also provided an update on the status of some of the other cases:

The preliminary setting for Robert Sam Sanchez — the driver accused of killing Rod Armas and seriously injuring his son Christian on PCH in Malibu last June — has been continued for the third time.

Sanchez was arrested shortly after fleeing the collision, which took place near the completion of the L.A. Wheelmen’s 200-mile Grand Tour Double Century. The preliminary setting, held prior to a preliminary hearing, is now scheduled for February 11 in the Malibu Courthouse. Sanchez has pled not guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated (Section 191.5a of the California Penal Code) as well as driving under the influence (CVC 23152a) and failure to stop after an accident involving an injury (CVC 20001a).

Rod’s sister-in-law reported last summer that Christian was doing well physically, though making it clear that the family was struggling with his loss. And an acquaintance of Sanchez noted that he was not a bad person, despite a drunken decision to get behind the wheel that has forever changed two families.

Mark Antonio Valencia was high on drugs and alcohol when he mowed down five cyclists in Santa Clarita on the morning of July 11, killing Joseph Novotny and seriously injuring two others. Valencia, who was driving his sister’s car without a license after two prior DUI convictions — as well as multiple arrests for drug and alcohol possession, selling tear gas and obstructing officers — had already been reported to authorities before the collision; unfortunately, sheriff’s deputies couldn’t catch up to him in time.

DJ Wheels reports that Valencia is scheduled for a pretrial hearing in the San Fernando courthouse on January 22. Valencia is still being held on $1.3 million bail, charged with 13 criminal counts including murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, hit-and-run and several DUI charges.

In a very personal case, the driver who threatened a group of cyclists, resulting in injuries to Wheel’s new wife, will be arraigned on January 26.

On January 28, the driver accused of injuring local cycling advocate Roadblock in a hit-and-run collision is scheduled for a pretrial hearing.

A February 3 hearing has been scheduled for four men charged with attempting to rob a female cyclist by striking her in the face with a baseball bat.

Meanwhile, the investigation continues into the hit-and-run that sent community leader Ed Magos to the hospital on January 6. Despite driving off and leaving another human splayed on the pavement unable to move, the driver was not arrested when she turned herself in later; no charges have yet been filed.

No word yet on the status of Patricia Ann Izquieta, who was arrested for the hit-and-run death of Donald Murphy in Irvine last month. Or whether any charges will be filed in the death of Gustavo Ramirez in Long Beach on the 5th. It doesn’t sound likely, though, since initial police statements seemed to blame Ramirez; the Press-Telegram reports on last weekend’s ride in his honor.

And there’s still no word of an arrest in the hit-and-run death of Robert Painter, the cyclist killed while riding in a crosswalk in North Hollywood last month. Fittingly, the driver is likely to face murder charges once an arrest is made.

……..

Controversy over plans for a bikeway near JPL. Travelin’ Local maps L.A. by bike. A North County San Diego paper questions whether current criminal penalties are strong enough when cars hit bikes; a drunk cyclist unwittingly volunteers as a test case. Another rider is killed in the nation’s most deadly state for cycling; Transit Miami examines why it happened there. Austin’s planned bike boulevard hits some bumps. Anchorage holds a very frosty bike race. A Colorado town revives the legendary Morgul Bismark stage from the Red Zinger/Coors Classics. German pro Matthias Kessler suffered a serious brain injury after a cat runs in front of his bike. London residents question traffic calming and bikeway plans. Lance has won seven tours; World Champ Cadel Evans says he’s only lost five.  Bikeways to the sailing venues for the 2012 Olympics could use some improvement. Scotland awards over $1.2 million to promote cycling in Edinburgh. The UK promotes child cycling through the new Bike Club. An Indian Nobel Laureate and confirmed cyclist says cars set a bad example, while a Danish politician says bikes are the obvious solution. Finally, the Trickster did indeed say it first — Michael Vink is a rising rider to keep an eye on.

And a woman walks into a bike shop

Santa Clarita hit-and-run killer was high on meth, coke, grass and booze; now faces trial

After Marco Valencia plowed into a group of cyclists on Bouquet Canyon Road last July, he wanted a Sheriff’s Deputy to kill him.

The local Santa Clarita Valley newspaper quotes L.A. County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeffrey Burrow as testifying that “He told me to shoot him, that his life was over.”

Unfortunately for the riders he hit, the request came a little too late.

By the time Valencia was apprehended after a short chase, Joseph Novotny already lay dead or dying and four other cyclists were injured, two seriously.

L.A. County Deputy District Attorney John Allen Ramseyer accused Valencia of exhibiting a “willful, wanton disregard for human life.” According to Ramseyer, he had a blood alcohol level of .18 — over twice the legal limit of .08 — as well as methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana in his system at the time of his arrest.

Despite being under age at the time of his arrest, Valencia already had two prior DUI convictions when he appeared before Superior Court Judge Harvey Giss at the San Fernando Courthouse on Thursday. According to the Signal, Giss determined that there was enough evidence to try Valencia on “13 criminal counts, including murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, hit-and-run and several DUI charges.”

Giss set bail at $1.3 million, with Valencia’s next court appearance scheduled for Christmas Eve.

Somehow, I don’t think he’ll find anything good in his stocking this year — or for the next few decades, for that matter.

And Novotny’s family will have an empty seat at their holiday table this year.

And every year that follows.

………

A reminder that cyclists aren’t the only vulnerable street users at risk from hit-and-run drivers. Miguel Penayo tried to escape from the scene of a traffic collision in Bell last night after apparently feeling threatened by a group of men, driving directly at them and striking one man. He then struck and killed another man who was leaving a Starbucks — an innocent victim who had nothing to do with the preceding incident — dragging his body beneath the car for “some distance,” according to L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.

……..

For all you Dutch bike and cargo bike fans, Flying Pigeon will soon stock Nihola Cigar Cargo Bikes. Streetsblog offers a bike-focused calendar for the upcoming week. The new plan for the Whittier Narrows calls for more bikeways and bike friendly streets. Stunt cyclist Danny Makaskill demonstrates the skills you need to navigate rush hour traffic in Los Angeles. Charleston, SC looks to calm the conflict between cyclists and drivers. The New York Times magazine endorses the bicycle highway. Missouri considers building a hanging bike bridge over the Mississippi River. Philadelphia cyclists declare victory over the city’s first experiment with a road diet. Among the reasons not to bike to work, you could die — of course, the same argument could be made for not getting out of bed in the morning. Cheap helmets help, but fit matters, too. With the rise in cycling, expect bad press to get worse before it gets better. A UK “thug” is sentenced for killing a man in an argument over borrowing his bike. Apparently, drunk cycling is legal in New Zealand, but I wouldn’t count on it. Philippines cyclists ride for women’s rights. A Brit TV host had his “willy cut ‘half off’” in a childhood biking accident. The rash of bike thefts spreads to Oxford — yet somehow, becomes a reason to crack down on reckless riders. After 75 years, the debate over UK bike lanes goes on…and on…and on… Finally, an OP piece in car-centric L.A.’s leading paper calls on Angelenos to change their thinking and not view streets as exclusively for cars; it didn’t take long for the usual sniping about “traffic laws are for cyclists, too,” to start. Or for someone to suggest it’s all a commie plot.

Santa Clarita to honor fallen cyclist with silent ride

novotny-2Every cycling death is tragic. And unnecessary.

And this year, there have been far too many around here.

Whether it’s a father taking his son on a grand adventure. A local handyman who took up riding after losing part of his vision in an accident. A day laborer from Sonora, Mexico, who rode everywhere. A woman police blame for causing her own death by riding the wrong way on the sidewalk. Or a man in Orange County just trying to get home from work.

And then there’s Joseph Novotny.

Like Rod Armas and Jesus Castillo, he was killed by an accused drunk driver who fled the scene — a driver who had already been arrested multiple times, despite being too young to legally drink.

And it was preventable.

His killer was driving with a suspended license, and passing motorists had already reported him to the authorities. But despite their best efforts, sheriff’s deputies arrived just moments after he’d plowed his truck into a group of oncoming cyclists riding on the opposite shoulder of the road, and continued down the road.

Four cyclists were injured, two seriously. And Novotny was killed.

It could have been anyone of us.

Adding to the tragedy, he was on one of his first rides with the Santa Clarita Velo Club, having just moved to the area with his wife. Now she, and all those who knew and loved him, have to find a way to go on without him.

Next Saturday, October 3rd, the City of Santa Clarita and the Santa Clarita Velo Club are sponsoring a Memorial Ride of Silence in memory of Robert Novotny, and other cyclists who have been killed on the roads.

I’ll let Jeff Wilson explain:

Los Angeles cyclists and Biking in LA readers, we could use your help!

On July 11, 2009, 43 year old cyclist Joseph Novotny was struck and killed by an underaged drunk driver while riding his bike in the Bouquet Canyon area of Santa Clarita.

On October 3, Santa Clarita cyclists will ride silently in memory of Joe Novotny and all other cyclists who have been killed while riding. Please consider joining us to raise awareness of bicyclists and our right to use roads.

The 12 mile ride begins at 8am in Santa Clarita. A Sheriff’s escort will be provided as we ride into Newhall, then Stevenson Ranch, and finally back to Valencia. Most of the route is flat; other parts are somewhat hilly (but brief). Cyclists are asked to ride in silence and at around 12mph.

From Los Angeles, Santa Clarita is just minutes north of the San Fernando Valley. Take Interstate 5 north and exit at Valencia Blvd. Proceed east on Valencia until you reach Citrus Avenue. Turn left on Citrus Avenue. Free parking is available.

Unfortunately, while Metrolink service is available to Santa Clarita, the earliest northbound train will arrive after the ride has started.

I know it’s short notice, and you may have other commitments already. But if you’re planning to ride next weekend, I can’t think of a better place to do it.

Or a better reason.

And please, be careful out there this weekend. I want to see you all back here on Monday.

For more information, contact IreneTJohnson@yahoo.com, or click here to visit the Facebook page.

………

Submitted for your approval: LADOT has finally released the full draft bicycle plan and scheduled dates and locations for public comment; Bike Girl calls the deadline for comments “infeasible,” while Dr. Alex notes that it excludes input from Neighborhood Councils. Pasadena has a meeting scheduled to discuss its new Bicycle Master Plan. Mark your calendar for the Festival of Rights to protest the illegal exclusion of bikes from the DWP’s annual Holiday Light Festival. We could have had bike lanes on Topanga Boulevard by now, no thanks to the Department of Currently Unfeasible, aka LADOT. L.A.’s leading bike wonk makes the case for making the case for active transportation. The only thing missing from Santa Monica’s new green maintenance facility is bike racks. Long Beach’s cycling expats offer a report from the road. An Arizona cyclist was killed riding with a group of other cyclists; he leaves behind a wife and three children, including a newborn. Evidently, cars really do make Americans fat. Proof there’s more than one way to park a bike. I don’t know what’s worse — that they put up speed bumps in a cemetery without warning cyclists, or that a few rude cyclists made it necessary. San Francisco police take a report of harassing a cyclist seriously. Finally, your word for the day is Traumadinejad.

novotny-2

Just how many drunk driving deaths are one too many?

This last Saturday, Joseph Novotny of Stevenson Ranch became the latest local cyclist killed in a hit-and-run drunk driving incident. (Note that I refuse to call them “accidents.”)

It should never have happened.

According to the local Santa Clarita paper, the driver of the pickup had been reported to the police just minutes earlier after nearly sideswiping another car. After calling 911, the other driver followed him as he drifted across lanes, onto the sidewalk and the median, and into a fence.

He continued talking with the dispatcher as he followed the truck up Bouquet Canyon Road, then watched in horror as it crossed onto the other side and hit five cyclists riding on the opposite shoulder head on.

Unfortunately, sheriff’s deputies arrived just moments too late.

That wasn’t the first opportunity anyone had to stop him, though. That came in 2007, when the then 18-year old driver was first convicted of driving under the influence. Or they could have stopped him last year, after he knocked down a utility pole in another drunk driving incident.

They also might have gotten him off the streets for any of his multiple arrests for illegal drug and alcohol possession, selling tear gas and obstructing police officers.

Instead, this past Saturday he was allegedly driving drunk, with a suspended license — despite the early hour and being under-age. Now two cyclists face a long recovery from serious injuries, and another is dead, leaving behind a wife and devastated friends.

According to one of those friends, despite being a relatively new member of the Santa Clarita Velo Club — Novotny and his wife moved to the Santa Clarita area just last March after living in Minnesota and Belgium — Novotny was an experience rider and a great hill climber. In fact, he sold Novotny his first road bike over 20 years ago and they frequently rode together. Novotny had even been the best man at his wedding.

Now he’s dead because the authorities couldn’t — or simply didn’t — keep a repeat offender off the roads. And the driver is scheduled to be arraigned today on charges that may include murder, driving under the influence and hit-and-run causing death.

Since the driver was underage, it’s also possible that whoever supplied him with the alcohol and/or drugs, or sold it to him in violation of the law, could face charges if the authorities choose to pursue it.

Yet even if this young man spends the rest of his life in jail — which is a distinct possibility — it does nothing to stop the larger problem of intoxicated and/or hit-and-run drivers.

At least three L.A.–area cyclists have been killed in hit-and-run incidents by accused drunk drivers this year alone — Novotny, Jesus Castillo and Rod Armas. Add to that Patrick Shannon, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Orange County recently, as well as countless others who’ve survived their injuries, including local cycling leader Roadblock.

Then there are all the pedestrians and vehicle passengers who’ve been killed or injured in hit-and-run and/or drunk driving incidents this year alone, including Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, in 2007 alone, an estimated 12,998 people were killed in alcohol-related motor-vehicle collisions — and an estimated 50% – 75% of drivers whose licenses get suspended will continue to drive anyway.

Newly elected councilmember Paul Koretz addressed this problem on here recently, as did his opponent David Vahedi. MADD proposes a campaign along the lines of what Vahedi suggested, including increased police enforcement as well as interlock systems that can prevent drunk drivers from starting their cars if they’ve been drinking.

Personally, I think the solution is a strict two-strike and you’re out policy.

On the first offense, the driver’s license is permanently revoked; after a period of one to two years, he or she can appear before a judge and request permission to apply for a license — but only if they’ve successfully completed a counseling program and agree to place an interlock system on any vehicle to which they have access.

Meanwhile, any vehicles registered in the driver’s name will be impounded until the license is restored, or sold to compensate any victims. And no one, anywhere, for any reason, should ever get another chance after a second violation.

Anyone caught driving after their license has been revoked should face mandatory jail time, with no possibility of early release. And any person convicted of leaving the scene of an accident should lose all driving privileges permanently, forever. Even for the first offense.

Harsh? Maybe.

But nowhere near as harsh as what Novotny’s family and friends now face.

Full disclosure — My 16-year old cousin was killed by a drunk driver when she was thrown from a car driven by her own father, who then ran over her and drove home without ever noticing she was missing. Also, one of my childhood friends was killed just before our senior year of high school when a drunk driver jumped a 20-foot wide median strip on an Interstate highway and hit his car head-on at over 70 mph. She walked away without a scratch; he and his passenger were killed instantly.

……….

The Wheelmen list all the finishers for this years Grand Tour, but there’s no mention of the two who didn’t make it, Rod Armas and his son. Am I the only one who thinks that’s shameful? Stephen Box examines the bikes on Metro controversy, while the Bus Bench takes the other side, and complains about those oppressed cyclists. Newport Beach beats L.A. to the punch on bicycle sharing. The cycling lawyer offers good advice for when tempers flare, while the other cycling lawyer notes that not one driver has been cited for violating Arizona’s three-foot passing law in Tucson this year. Two Milwaukee bike cops are struck in separate incidents. Evidently, it’s still illegal to park a bike on the sidewalk in Jacksonville. No bikes involved — thank God — but see how fast an accident can happen. Just Williams finally gets the instructions on how to fold his Ikea folding bike. Finally, a Berlin brothel offers a discount to anyone who arrives by bike.

Another weekend, another drunken hit-and-run, another ghost bike

This has to be the worst weekend for L.A.-area cyclists in recent memory.

On the heels of yesterday’s twin shootings comes word of yet another cyclist killed by an intoxicated hit-and-run driver.

Joseph Novotny of Stevenson Ranch was riding on Bouquet Canyon Road with a group of other riders Saturday morning. A pickup truck driving in the opposite direction crossed over the double yellow line and struck three cyclists, then continued on his way without stopping. Novotny was killed, and four other riders were injured, two seriously.

A 20-year old driver from Saugus was arrested about 90 minutes later, and is currently being held on suspicion of murder, hit-and-run and driving under the influence, with a bail of $1.1 million, according to the Times. (As a rule, I try not to name suspects because tempers tend to run high after something like this. Including mine.)

This comes just two weeks after another local rider was killed, and his son injured, in yet another alleged drunken hit-and-run incident on PCH in Malibu.

The simple fact is, there are far too many drunk drivers on the road, and far too many drivers willing to flee the scene after killing or injuring another human being. And far too many innocent lives shattered forever.

If you have a solution to this problem, I’d like to know.

Because frankly, I’m at a loss here.

……..

Evidently, this was a bad weekend cyclists all around the country. Locally, a rider took a bad fall on a century ride over the weekend. A rider in Harlem was knocked off his bike and killed after a blow to the head. A Toledo rider was struck by a car, then spit on and beaten by the occupants — less than a week after another rider died of injuries he sustained when a 15-year old boy stole his bike. Finally, a little good news as a pro bono attorney fights for a group of riders who rolled a stop on a charity ride.

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