LA Streetsblog by Stephen Box on October 13, 2009
The wheels of justice grind slowly and sometimes it's hard to believe that the system is working but a survey of the legal landscape in LA County reveals that there are several cases working that should be of great interest to the cycling community. Danny Jimenez, local cyclist and lawyer, says "victims are often discouraged by the difficulty in obtaining justice but when the system works, it's encouraging to see a Judge and a Prosecutor and a Jury doing their job and doing it well."
In the last year and a half, there have been several drunk driving and road rage incidents that have shaken the cycling community, leaving a trail of dead and broken bodies behind along with a general feeling of frustration and despair for the friends and families of the victims.
Dr. Christopher T. Thompson is charged with 2 counts of Assault with a Deadly Weapon (245a) 2 counts of Battery with Serious Bodily Injury (243d) reckless driving (23103a) and reckless driving causing specified injury (23105a) and Mayhem (203) all stemming from the Mandeville Canyon Road Rage incident that left two cyclists broken, bleeding and lying on the road. Thompson's case is slowly working itself through the system at the LAX Courthouse. Today, they will pick a judge to replace Judge Cynthia Reyvis and will then hear pre-trial motions. Tomorow, they start jury selection.
Alejandro Hidalgo is charged with vehicular manslaughter (191.5a) and DUI (23153a) (23153b) in the death of Jesus Castillo on Glendale Boulevard and his case is coming up in the Downtown Criminal Courthouse. The next hearing is on October 30 at 8:30 and no trial date has been set for this case.
Robert Sam Sanchez is charged with Vehicular Manslaughter (191.5a) and DUI (23153a) and Hit-and-Run with serious bodily injury (20001a) in the death of Rodrigo "Rod" Armas and the injury to his son, Christian Armas on PCH and that case is coming up in the Malibu Courthouse. The next hearing is on October 20 at 8:30 am and no trial date has been set.
Marco Antonio Valencia is charged with Vehicular Manslaughter (191.5a) and DUI (23153a) and Hit-and-Run with serious bodily injury (20001a) and in the death of Joe Novotny on Bouquet Canyon Road in Santa Clarita and that case is coming up in San Fernando Courthouse. The next hearing is on October 28 at 8:30 am and no trial date has been set.
Jim Azpilicueta is charged with two counts of Assault with a Deadly Weapon (245a) and Hit-and-Run with serious bodily injury (20001a) in an incident that caused a cyclist to sustain significant injuries including severe damage to her face. The arraignment is set for October 14 at 8:30 am.
There is another case pending in the Hit-and-Run with Serious Bodily Injury (20001a) incident that left Roadblock lying on Glendale Boulevard after being hit from behind and flipped into the air, landing with just enough consciousness and awareness to catch a partial license plate of the car as it sped off into the distance. The arraignment is set for Nov. 2 at 8:30 am in Dept. 60 Metro Court.
Missing from the dockets of the Southland Courthouses is the infamous Hummer vs. Cyclists case. The LAPD response to the Hummer vs. Cyclists incident received much attention and resulted in a City Council motion directing an LAPD report on police activity and the resulting investigation. It also stirred a Storm the Bastille ride to City Hall, three visits to the Police Commission, and claims filed with the LAPD Inspector General. But it did not result in a court case.
This is why cyclists need the Cyclists' Bill of Rights. The CBR has picked up endorsements from the City Council, from the City's Bicycle Advisory Committee and from neighborhood councils around LA. The CBR claims as right #4 "Cyclists have the right to the full support of our judicial system and the right to expect that those who endanger, injure or kill cyclists be dealt with to the full extent of the law."
Now is the time for the cycling community to embrace the Cyclists' Bill of Rights and to insist that it be included, as written, in LA's Draft Bike Plan, just released and already under attack for having a 42 day window for public participation and not using imperative language that will support the rights of cyclists on the streets of Los Angeles.
Pay close attention to what's happening in City Council, in the Courts and, most of all, on the Streets!