Breaking news — Dominique and Stephen Rush accept a plea deal in hit-and-run death of Alex Romero

January 28, 2012

Big news on the legal front.

According to courtroom reports from cyclist and attorney Dj Wheels, Dominique Rush, the driver charged with the hit-and-run death of 17-year old cyclist Alex Romero, will spend the next few years behind bars.

Wheels, who was in the courtroom for today’s preliminary hearing, reports the 23-year old Rush entered a plea of No Contest to charges of gross vehicular manslaughter and hit-and-run.

Her father, Steven Rush, also entered a plea of No Contest to being an accessory after the fact for his efforts in helping his daughter cover-up her crime.

Romero was riding north along De Soto Avenue with a friend on the night of April 20th when he was struck by a speeding car near the intersection with Valerio Street. The driver, later identified as Rush, reportedly tried to pass another vehicle on the right, striking Romero’s bike from behind and killing him instantly before speeding off without stopping or slowing down.

That began a months-long investigation in which the police soon identified Rush as the suspect, but were unable to find the 2003 Toyota Corolla she’d been driving at the time.

According to the police, that difficulty was due, at least in part, to her father’s efforts. As KNBC-4 reported at the time of the arrest,

“The father went way beyond taking care of his child,” said Capt. Ivan Minsal of LAPD Valley Traffic Division. “He concealed the information. He concealed the car that his daughter, the driver, was driving.”

Now they’ll both have to pay for their crimes.

Wheels reports that Dominique will be sentenced to two years and eight months in prison on March 6th, while her father will receive 10 days in jail, along with 30 days on a Caltrans road crew.

I hope he works on a roadway where he’ll have to watch a lot of cyclists go by.

And yes, that sentence is a relative slap on the wrist for running down another human being and leaving him to die in the street where he fell. Maybe someday someone can explain to me how anyone could do that to another person.

Anyone with a heart, anyway.

But it may be the best prosecutors could do under the circumstances.

The fact is, this is one case the police didn’t give up on. Maybe it was pressure from the cycling community. Or maybe it was dedication to their jobs, and a commitment to keep going until they had the guilty party behind bars.

The LAPD investigators in charge of this case kept at it long after they could have given up and pushed it off the back burner. And long after many of us had given up on this case.

That they didn’t says a lot about them.

And the gratitude we all owe them on Alex’ behalf.

Wheels reports that his aunt Matilda addressed the court, saying Alex was a precious gift from God, and asking Dominique to repent. He says Dominique cried during the aunt’s comments, while Steven was tearful but composed.

I’m sure they’ll shed more tears in the days and years to come.

But it won’t begin to compare with the tears that have already been shed by Romero’s family and friends.

……..

A couple other notes from Dj Wheels.

He reports that Jeffrey Ray Adams, the road raging driver charged with intentionally cutting off a cyclist in Santa Monica — then ranting about it as the camera rolled — had a preliminary hearing last Friday. The court found there was enough evidence to take the case before a jury; he’ll have a felony arraignment in a couple of weeks.

And a restitution hearing was held Tuesday in the case of Jaclyn Andrea Garcia, the underage driver charged with nearly killing cyclist Adam Rybicki last April when she collided with a group of Sunday morning riders while still drunk from the night before.

She may have gotten off with a slap on the wrist at her sentencing. But the judge lowered the boom in assigning restitution, ordering Garcia to pay $16,162,239.24.

Yes, that’s 16 million, one-hundred-sixty-two-thousand, two-hundred-thirty-nine dollars. And twenty-four cents change.

On top of that, she was ordered to pay 10% annual interest until the amount is paid in full.

Although I suspect they might be willing to write off that last 24 cents.

Which means that unless she’s phenomenally successful, Garcia will likely be working for the Rybickis for the remainder of her life. And that is a heavy price to pay for a night of youthful stupidity.

Yet it doesn’t begin to make up for what Garcia has put Adam Rybicki and his family through.

Speaking of Adam, Jim Lyle sends word that he continues to make slow, steady progress in recovery from his injuries. And that he’s back on a bike — even if it is a stationary bike in rehab.

That’s a lot more than most of us would have expected — or even dared to hope — just nine months ago. He’s clearly one tough, determined guy, with a support circle that refuses to give up.

I hope you’ll join me in offering my best wishes and prayers for Adam and his family for a full recovery. 


Breaking news: Shawn Fields guilty in death of cyclist Danny Marin; details on Jaclyn Garcia plea deal

September 30, 2011

Cyclist and attorney Dj Wheels reports that Shawn Fields unexpectedly changed his plea to guilty last week, and has been sentenced in the death of 17-year old Kennedy High School student Danny Marin.

The collision occurred on Laurel Canyon Blvd in Pacoima about 2 am on October 2nd of last year — exactly one year ago this weekend. Fields was allegedly drunk when he hit Marin, then drove home after initially stopping at the scene; police found him inside his home, sleeping on the couch.

In what was apparently a last ditch effort, Fields’ attorney attempted to have the evidence suppressed last month — including the results of Fields’ blood alcohol test — arguing that the arresting officers did not have a warrant when they entered his home, after he failed to respond when they knocked. The judge rejected that motion, ruling that the police had probable cause to arrest Fields and that there were exigent circumstances that negated the need for a warrant.

The prosecutor handling the case told Wheels that Fields pled guilty to vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, and admitted to the special allegation that he fled the scene of Marin’s death.

He received a sentence of 7 years in state prison; with good behavior and the current prison overcrowding crisis, he can be expected to serve roughly half of that. Or less.

It won’t bring Danny back.

But at least Danny got the justice his death demanded.

……..

In other legal news, Wheels also offers the full details on the plea bargain accepted by Jaclyn Andrea Garcia for the allegedly drunken collision that nearly took the life of cyclist Adam Rybicki last April.

Rybicky was participating in a weekly, informal group ride known as the Doctor’s Ride shortly after 7 am on Sunday, April 3rd, when Garcia’s car headed straight towards the group on the wrong side of the road.

In the mad scramble to get out of her way, Rybicki was hit head-on, and another rider was injured when he was hit by the fender of Garcia’s car. Rybicki survived, in part, because an orthopedic surgeon happened to be on the ride that day.

Reports from observers at the scene suggest that Garcia and her companions seemed emotionless and unconcerned about the carnage they had caused; maybe because it was far from her first infraction. While Garcia denied it, many people who were on the ride that day have severely criticized the apparent lack of responsibility in the letter she wrote to the court.

Rybicki remains intubated in a rehabilitation facility; while he’s lost the sight in one eye, he is able to communicate using a white board. He reportedly continues to improve, but faces a very long road back to be anything close to the man he was before.

As reported here before, the plea deal will result in just one year in county jail for Garcia. However, Wheels reports that there are more conditions to her sentencing.

She was initially sentenced to three years in state prison, the maximum term allowed for violating CVC 23153(a), which prohibits driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs causing injury.

However, the sentence was suspended and she was placed on five years probation.  As noted, she will be required to spend 365 days in county jail; the judge specifically barred serving her time on house arrest. Other conditions include court fines and acknowledging that she’s agreed to a first strike under the three strikes law.

She’s also required to abstain from drug or alcohol use, enroll in a 3-month DUI class, wear a Lindsey Lohan-style SCRAM device for one year to detect alcohol use, submit to random drug testing, and install an ignition interlock device on her car.

How about just revoking her drivers license?

Permanently, preferably.

In addition, she will have to participate in the HAM/morgue program, seek and maintain employment approved by a probation officer, and agree to submit to searches by probation or other officers without probable cause.

A restitution hearing is scheduled for November 17th, and she’s scheduled to surrender for incarceration on October 6th.

While I think most of us would have preferred more jail time, it is a tough sentence in other respects. And if she violates the terms or commits another offense, she has that suspended prison sentence hanging over her head.

Personally, I wouldn’t bet on her making it through probation without screwing up.


One year in jail for underage, allegedly drunk driver who nearly killed cyclist Adam Rybicki.

September 1, 2011

Is a single year in county jail really enough for an underage drinking and driving spree that injured two cyclists — nearly taking the life of one and leaving him with life-altering injuries?

Sources tell me that a plea deal has been reached in the case of Jaclyn Andrea Garcia, the 19-year old driver accused of plowing into a group of cyclists early on the morning of Sunday, April 3rd — while still drunk from the night before.

In fact, I’m told that at the time of the 7:15 am collision, she still had a BAC of 0.15, nearly twice the legal limit.

Reportedly, she will be sentenced to one year in jail, though current jail overcrowding conditions mean she’s likely to serve less than six months.

Maybe far less.

In addition, she’ll face three years probation after her release, including a requirement that she wear the SCRAM alcohol monitor made famous by Lindsey Lohan. We can only hope it will be more effective than it was with her more famous compatriot.

She also have her driver’s license suspended for just one year. This despite at least four moving violations in the last three years, as well as allegedly totaling her car in a previous collision.

Hopefully, it won’t be the year she’ll be in jail and can’t drive anyway.

Meanwhile, I’m told that her primary victim, 49-year old Adam Rybicki of Rancho Palos Verdes, continues to progress, albeit slowly, and faces a long, hard road to recovery; it remains to be seen whether he will ever regain even a semblance of the life he lived before Garcia ran him down.

Those with whom I’ve discussed the case consider the penalties likely to be imposed on Garcia to be very light given the extreme severity of Rybicki’s injuries. However, I’m told that the D.A. handling the case had his hands tied by the penalties allowed under the law for a first time vehicular felon.

One attorney who weighed in on the plea deal said that under current state law someone has to die before a heavy prison sentence can be imposed; from what I understand, Adam Rybicki came very, very close.

In fact, he probably would have if there hadn’t been an orthopedic surgeon on ride.

But at least she’ll have a felony conviction on her record, which will follow her for the rest of her life.

Meanwhile, Garcia has written a letter asking for leniency, which has been highly criticized by some who’ve seen it; at least some observers accuse her of failing to take responsibility for her actions and seeing herself as the victim.

“I ended up being involved in an accident where two bicyclists were injured.” (Garcia)

Beyond comprehension. She is the victim here?!? Accident?!? This is a @##$$%^^&&* felony!!! Two bicyclists were injured!?! With a blood alcohol level of 0.15, she drove a vehicle directly into the path of law abiding cyclists and assaulted them with her vehicle.

“One thing that people have said about me is the fact that I was emotionless at the time of the accident. I was far from that.”

Well, yes, people did observe that appearance. She may be on the mark here. She was beyond emotionless; she was nearly unconscious! That, however, does not constitute emotion. Still no responsibility. She certainly did not offer any help at the scene of the accident; compassion, not hardly.

The case has been continued until Monday, September 12th at 8:30 am in Department 5, Room 403 of the Inglewood Superior Court.

At that time, she is expected to change her plea to guilty, and the court will hear statements from the victims — or in Rybicki’s case, his family members — and other interested parties.

And before the day is over, Jaclyn Andrea Garcia is likely to be sentenced for failing to kill Adam Rybicki, if only barely.

Whether justice will be served depends entirely on your perspective.

……..

In another case, Victims Impact Statements will be heard on Wednesday, September 7th in the case of Stephanie Segal, charged with felony gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and felony hit-and-run in the death of cyclist James Laing; Segal reportedly had a BAC of .26 at the time of the collision. The hearing is now scheduled for 10 am  — I’d previously reported it would start at 8:30 am — in Department 1 of the Malibu Courthouse, 23525 Civic Center Way.

Cyclists are urged to attend wearing bike jerseys to show support for Laing and his family; however, long pants are required in the courtroom.


Harrowing first person account of collision that critically injured Adam Rybicki, and a call for justice

July 25, 2011

Jaclyn Andrea Garcia being taken into custody.

Last April, Adam Rybicki was critically injured in a collision with an alleged underage drunk driver while riding with friends in Torrance.

The collision occurred early on Sunday morning as a car driven by Jaclyn Andrea Garcia drove head first towards the cyclists, then suddenly jerked back to strike Rybicki and another rider as they swerved to avoid her. Despite her age and the early hour, 19-year old Garcia reportedly had a blood alcohol level nearly twice the legal limit.

Nearly three months later, Adam remains in a rehab facility, struggling to communicate using a white board; he still has both a feeding tube and a tracheotomy tube installed. Reportedly, he’s making good progress, though he has a very long way to go.

The driver who is charged with putting him there is facing a preliminary setting hearing on Wednesday, July 27th in Department 5 of the Inglewood Courthouse, Case #YA81126; she’s charge with two counts of DUI with injury, and two counts DUI with BAC of .08 and injury.

The case has been transferred to Inglewood after the Supervising Judge in Torrance recused all the judges in that courthouse because Garcia’s mother works as a court reporter there. Cyclists who knew Rybicki and were on the ride are worried that, even in another courthouse, Garcia could receive favorable treatment because of her mother’s relationship with local judges and prosecutors.

As a result, they want to get the story out about what really happened that tragic Sunday, and have sent me, and several prominent area reporters and columnists, the following, absolutely chilling, first person account of the collision.

Along with a signed petition calling for justice for Adam.

……..

At 7:15 AM on April 3, 2011, the group of riders known as “The Doctors’ Ride” was headed downhill on Camino de Encanto.

Minutes earlier they left the congregation point near the fountain at Malaga Cove Plaza, with ten riders headed north toward Marina Del Rey.  They use Camino De Encanto to avoid traffic on Palos Verdes Boulevard.

As the road curved slightly to the right at the bottom of the steep part, an oncoming car came into view.  The silver Kia driven by Jaclyn Andrea Garcia was already in the middle of the road and drifting into the path of oncoming bikes.

MB said to JT, “Watch the car.”

Incredibly and inexplicably, the car kept coming further into the cyclists’ lane.  MB and JT at the front veered right and hit their brakes, skidding on the pavement, but they had no place to go.  DC, behind MB, braked so hard he kicked up his back wheel, barely keeping control.  Adam, to his left, apparently saw an opening to go left around the car and headed that way.  KW and NG1 behind braked hard but stayed right.  Behind them, SH and NG2 also braked hard, skidding.  Well back, DS and DL watched the horror unfold.

At the front, MB yelped a primal scream as he braced for impact.  JT, an accomplished motorcycle rider, tried to keep control and find a way out.  At the last second, Garcia jerked her vehicle back to the proper side sparing MB his expected impact.  JT smashed his left handlebar into the left front fender and vaulted up, shearing off the driver’s side mirror and scraping his shorts on the left rear door handle.  He doesn’t recall hitting the ground but popped up with a smashed left hand and upper leg abrasions from the scrape with the mirror and door handle.

Adam was not as fortunate.  His chosen escape was abruptly cut off with no time to react. He struck the bumper and hood of the Kia just to the driver’s side of center.  His carbon fiber bike frame buckled and shattered from the impact, the only thing holding it together was the control cables.  His right femur also shattered from the impact to the hood.  He flew into the windshield just to the passenger side of center creating a hole about a foot in diameter and spraying shattered glass into the lap of the girl in the passenger seat.  Adam was tossed into the air and landed on the far side of the street, his chest and face-down head on the sidewalk, his pelvis and legs in the gutter.  His right leg stuck out at a horrible angle under his left leg; he looked dead.

MB circled back and assessed the situation.  The vehicle had stopped back in the proper lane about 10 feet beyond Adam’s body.  The engine was still running; he yelled at the driver to shut off the engine and stay in the car.  DS, an orthopedic surgeon, noted Adam had a pulse but was not conscious or breathing well; he had to be moved to clear an airway.  MB and DS moved Adam so he was laid out in the gutter face up.  He began moaning.  Neighbors emerged from houses to see what the commotion was about.  Riders franticly called 911 uncertain what the street name or block was.

Riders quickly ascertained that Adam and JT were the only riders hit, JT far better off than Adam.  Minutes seemed like hours as riders awaited help.  A neighbor produced a blanket to cover Adam against the morning chill.  DS tended to Adam imploring him to hang on.

Five girls gradually emerged from the vehicle and wandered to the curb to sit away from the cyclists.  One stated within earshot of KW that this was bullshit; she had to get to work.  KW, uncertain if this was the driver, told this girl she wasn’t going anywhere, this was a serious accident and she should calm down and stay put.  Jaclyn Garcia told the girl to come sit down with her.

After about five minutes, the first police appeared on scene.  Minutes later, paramedics showed up and took over first aid from DS.  Others were trying to contact Adam’s wife, Barbara, by calling information.  JT had someone call his wife, also.  JT insisted paramedics tend to Adam first.  Ambulance arrived on scene, the paramedics cut off Adam’s jersey, a nearly new Bike Tour of Colorado jersey he bought last June.  In the back of the jersey was his wallet, his mini pump and his phone.  They loaded Adam onto a gurney and hauled him away in the ambulance headed for Harbor UCLA Trauma Center.

The police secured the block with crime scene tape and segregated the car girls from the riders.  Everyone except Adam was interviewed over the next hour.  Garcia was field-sobriety checked and failed.  She was cuffed and stuffed into the back of a cruiser for a trip to Torrance Memorial Medical Center for Blood-alcohol content testing.  At age 19, the legal limit is zero.  When tested, hers was closer to 0.15.

Adam’s phone and other jersey contents disappeared from the trauma center.  It was later determined that someone in South Central LA was using his phone to make international calls.  Messages were sent to try to retrieve the phone; there were no responses.  After multiple surgeries in the trauma center, his condition was stabilized.

Three-and-a-half months later Adam is conscious, but has severely limited motor ability.  He was moved to a sub-acute care center where he receives 24-hour-a-day monitoring.  He has been bed-ridden for three months. He has a trach tube, a feeding tube and cannot do anything for himself.  He cannot hear or talk.  He can respond to written questions with yes and no nods of his head.  He has no memories of the crash.  He appreciates all visitors and well wishes.  We are all hoping that he can eventually recover some semblance of a normal life.

A number of the riders and friends of Adam have circulated a petition.  It has been deemed inappropriate for us to send it directly to the DA or the judiciary.  We feel that we’d like to put it out there anyway so we are sending to you, the press.  We appreciate any public airing this case can get.

……..

A Demand for Justice in the Case of Jaclyn Andrea Garcia

Jaclyn Andrea Garcia was 19.  She was a former student athlete at Palos Verdes High, a babysitter and a Jr College Student.  She was drunk and driving in south Torrance with four other girls in her Kia mini-SUV.  Adam Rybicki was 49.  He was a fit, enthusiastic, avid bicyclist, who was very well liked by all who knew him.  He was a productive software engineer and, perhaps more importantly, a loyal husband and father.  April 3, 2011 brought them together in a horrible, violent collision.

At age 19, the legal limit for Blood Alcohol Content is zero.  When tested, JAG’s was closer to 0.15, nearly twice the legal limit for adults.  She and friends had purchased alcoholic drinks (illegally) on Saturday night and spent the night drinking at JAG’s boyfriend’s house.  How or why they emerged at 7 AM Sunday and decided to pile into JAG’s car is unknown.  But by doing so, they sealed Adam’s fate.

JAG drove her car across the centerline into the path of a group of ten cyclists.  In the mad scramble to escape her vehicle, two cyclists were struck.  Adam was by far the worst casualty.  He was struck head on with a closing speed of nearly 55 mph.

Adam’s progress is slow.  He still cannot hear.  He is still on a feeding tube and a trach tube for breathing.  He cannot speak.  He cannot do anything for himself.  Nobody knows if he will ever recover those abilities we all take for granted.

Some feel that the District Attorney should tie JAG’s fate to Adam’s; as long as he’s in his ‘prison’, she should stay in the state’s prison.  That is probably not within the law and it is not going to happen.  But it would be a travesty if she walked just because of her youth and sympathy for her family.  Adam Rybicki has no ‘inside’ connections.  District Attorneys, as we have seen in the Colorado case (see http://velonews.competitor.com/2011/06/news/the-explainer-a-follow-up-to-the-sleepy-investment-banker_177721), can make decisions on how to prosecute.  They have autonomy to make deals in criminal court that determine the defendant’s destiny.  They have no say in Adam Rybicki’s destiny.

We will see what happens in this criminal proceeding; it bears watching and those prosecuting and/or dealing should be and will be accountable – no under-the-table or behind-closed-doors deals should be allowed.  This is no longer a juvenile offender – no more sealed verdicts.  Justice is supposed to be blind and beyond reproach .

Drunk driving is a crime.  Offenders are to be cited and prosecuted.   Bicyclists constitute some of the most vulnerable users of the roadways.  They are entitled to use the roadways.  Accidents happen.  This was not an accident; this was a crime.  By illegally drinking and driving, Jaclyn Andrea Garcia became a criminal.  She should be properly prosecuted and should be properly penalized.  Any parent can appreciate wanting to spare a child distress and life disruption due to penalties.  But take a look at Adam Rybicki’s life and family.  They did not sign up for this and did nothing to deserve it.  We are all hoping that Adam can eventually recover some semblance of a normal life.

We, the undersigned, implore the District Attorney and Judge to consider the facts of the case and impose the maximum possible sentence for these crimes.

Thank you.

Richard Lull
Javier Murphy
Richard Shrader
Cynthia Tenhouse
Davis Jensen
David Perez
Dave LaForest
Raymond Eastwood
William Klahr
Paul and Kelley Swanno
Ed Taylor
Benjamin Konell
James K Yokotake
John Thomson
John Reidy
Judith Elliot
Gus and Gail Ohlsson
H. Marq Prince
William Height
Marcus Edwardes
Michael C Barr
Susan Kessler
Robert Cedergreen
Jeff Dykzeul
Kathy Risley
Jon Rosen
Kathy Nelson
 
If the authors of this petition don’t mind, they can add one more name to this list. Mine.
 
Ted Rogers, BikingInLA
 

When will it ever stop? El Segundo cyclist killed by hit-and-run driver July 4th; Rybicki improving

July 5, 2011

You knew we weren’t going to get through the holiday weekend without bad news.

Early morning on the 4th of July, those fears were confirmed when a hit-and-run driver took the life of 32-year old cyclist George Loudon in El Segundo. Loudon was reportedly making his was home from work when he was hit from behind while riding northbound on Vista Del Mar near Dockweiler State Beach in El Segundo.

The exact spot of the collision is unclear; reports say the collision occurred near Hyperion Way, which does not appear on online maps.

Loudon was pronounced dead at the scene.

Authorities reportedly don’t have any description of the suspect vehicle; anyone with information is asked to call the LAPD at 213/473-0222.

This was the second fatal hit-and-run in the L.A. area in just 24 hours, as a pedestrian was killed in San Pedro on Sunday.

Loudon’s death was the 35th confirmed cycling traffic fatality in Southern California this year, and the 10th in Los Angeles County; three of those fatalities have been the result of hit-and-runs.

And I’m still looking for confirmation of two other possible deaths in the past two weeks, including one in East L.A.

Maybe one day we’ll finally be able to celebrate our independence from cowards who flee the scene after killing or injuring another human being. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no lower form of life; it’s long past time we stop treating hit-and-runs like traffic collisions and start treating them like the crimes they are.

My prayers and condolences to Loudon’s family and friends.

Update: The Daily Breeze reports that Loudon, who lived in Venice, was riding through a “dark and desolate” area wearing dark clothing and without reflectors; whether he had a light is not mentioned. His body was found by a passing motorist, so there is no clear indication of exactly when he was hit. Police note that the vehicle should have significant damage to the front end.

……..

I’ve been hearing some unfortunate rumors about Adam Rybicki, the cyclist critically injured in a collision with an allegedly drunk, underage driver in Torrance last April.

So let me clear up any confusion.

Adam has been transferred to a rehab facility, and continues to show improvement. While he still has significant impairment due to his injuries, the latest reports are that he is able to communicate using a white board and is working hard at his recovery.

Clearly, he has a very long way to go, and prayers and positive thoughts are still needed.

But overall, the news is good. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.


Legal update: DUI driver arraigned for injuring Adam Rybicki, Valencia sentencing today

May 25, 2011

These days, it seems like there are as many court cases involving cyclists than there are riders on the streets.

Fortunately, cyclist/attorney Dj Wheels has done his usual great job of keeping us up to date with the latest legal proceedings — including charges against the under-aged, allegedly intoxicated driver who ran down who hit Adam Rybicki head on, and Thursday’s sentencing for Marco Antonio Valencia, convicted in the hit-and-run DUI death of Joseph Novotny.

Editor’s Note: While Dj Wheels provided updates on these cases, any commentary or information beyond the actual status of the cases are mine. So blame me, not him.

Jaclyn Andrea Garcia:  Charges were filed May 19th at the Torrance Courthouse for the DUI collision that critically injured cyclist Adam Rybicki this past April. The Supervising Judge recused all the judges there from hearing the case, with no public explanation for his actions; however, rumor has it that Garcia’s mother is a court reporter in Torrance, which would explain the recusal.

As a result, arraignment was held Tuesday in Department 5 of the Inglewood Courthouse, Case #YA081126. Garcia’s attorney, George Bird, entered a plea of not guilty to all four counts:

1) CVC 23153(a) – DUI w/ injury
2) CVC 23153(b) – DUI w/ BAC over .08 and injury
3) CVC 23153(a) – DUI w/ injury
4) CVC 23153(b) – DUI w/ BAC over .08 and injury

Bird also informed the court on the record that his client has voluntarily surrendered her driver’s license, entered into a three-month alcohol program, voluntarily attended 18 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and has begun electronic alcohol monitoring with the SCRAM device made famous by Hollywood’s favorite outlaw.

Too bad it’s just a little too late.

Had Garcia sobered up a few months earlier, Adam Rybicki might not be in a coma right now, the victim of a 20-year old woman still drunk and behind the wheel at 7:15 in the morning.

And you can bet that none of the actions Garcia took in surrendering her license or entering rehab were her idea; it was no doubt ordered by her attorney in an attempt to show remorse and get his client released with nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

After all, it’s worked for any number of Hollywood celebrities, whose first stop after hitting the tabloids is usually a stint in luxury rehab.

And by all accounts, Garcia’s high-priced attorney knows what he’s doing. Maybe if Dr. Thompson’s attorney had ordered him straight into rehab, he might be a free man today.

Let’s hope that the court takes this case seriously, and doesn’t let yet another driver buy her way out of taking responsibility.

Speaking of the infamous Good Doctor:

Dr. Christopher Thompson:  The date for oral arguments has been continued upon the court’s own motion in the appeal of Dr. Thompson’s conviction for intentionally injuring two cyclists in Mandeville Canyon by slamming on his brakes in front of them.  The new date is now 6/29/11.

Marco Antonio ValenciaValenica was convicted last month in the hit-and run DUI death of cyclist Joseph Novotny. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for today (Thursday) at the San Fernando Court; he faces up to 24 year to life in prison.

Shawn Fields:  Fields is charged with the hit-and-run DUI death of 17-year old cyclist Danny Marin in Pacoima last October. Fields reportedly told investigators that he thought he might have hit something, because he remembered seeing sparkly dust flying over him — from the windshield shattered by Marin’s body. Pretrial/Trial Setting Conference is scheduled for 6/22.

Patrick Roraff & Brett Morin:  Roraff and Morin are charged with causing the death of rising pro cyclist Jorge Alvarado in April of last year. The two were allegedly street racing when Roraff lost control and slammed into Alvarado, who was riding on the opposite shoulder. Pretrial conference is scheduled for 7/7.

Stephanie Drew Segal:  Segal is charged with the hit-and-run DUI death of cyclist James Laing in Agoura last year (notice a theme here?). She allegedly plowed into Laing after leaving a local wine tasting room, and entered into a rehab facility after her arrest. Preliminary setting is scheduled for 6/28; Wheels notes that the docket says the DA has been ordered to have victims present, which is unusual for this type of hearing.

Renato Demartino:  Demartino is charged with the hit-and-run death of 22-year old cyclist Marco Acuapan, who died in April, four months after he was allegedly hit by Demartino’s car while riding in a bike lane in Tustin. A pretrial conference scheduled for 6/1.

Danae Marie Miller:  Miller is charged with the death of world-class triathlete Amine Britel; she was allegedly drunk and texting when she rear-ended Britel, who was riding in a marked bike lane. Pretrial conference scheduled for 7/15.

Captain John David Hines:  Hines, a Long Beach Fire Captain, is accused of plowing into cyclist Jeffrey Gordon, then fleeing the scene, despite legal, and professional, obligations to stop and render aid. He had allegedly been drinking for hours in a local bar before getting behind the wheel, and had a BAC of .24 at the time of his arrest — three times the legal limit. And once again, he reportedly checked into rehab right after his arrest. Pretrial conference scheduled for 6/17.

Satnam Singh:  Singh is charged with killing 20-year old college student Nick Haverland in yet another hit-and-run DUI — this time, in a hit-and-run rampage involving three separate collisions in a matter of minutes that left five people injured and Haverland dead. Pretrial conference scheduled for 6/14; Singh remains in custody with the Ventura County Sheriff.


Valencia trial nears conclusion, CA 3-foot law moves forward, NY Post absurdly fans the bikelash flames

April 26, 2011

Dj Wheels reports that the trial has resumed in the case of Marco Antonio Valencia, charged with murder and hit-and-run, among other charges, in the death of Joseph Novotny and the serious injury of three other riders.

According to Wheels, the prosecution has rested their case, and the defense is expected to conclude today after calling a single witness.

The defense’s expert witness, Dr. Ari Kalechstein, a neuro-psychologist who has testified in numerous other trials about the effect of intoxication on the brain and the effect on behavior, offered the opinion that Valencia was “unconscious” (either blacked out or passed out) at the time of the collision with the cyclists.

The prosecution’s cross examination has begun and will resume tomorrow morning (Tuesday) at 10:30am.  So far, the prosecution is attempting to establish that although someone is “unconscious” (i.e. blacked out) they can still be aware of what they are doing.  Also that despite the expert’s opinion, he can not provide the jury with any indication of what was going on in the mind of Valencia at the time of the collision.

After the defense rests, the judge and attorneys will have to confer about the appropriate jury instructions to read to the jury before closing arguments begin.

Hopefully they get through it all tomorrow so the jury can start deliberating.

The Signal reports on the same testimony, and notes Valencia faces 27 year to life if convicted on the murder charge.

.………

Jim Lyle reports that the news is good for Richard Schlickman, the cyclist injured recently in a fall caused by new speed bumps in Palos Verdes Estates, as he has been moved to a rehab facility and is talking up a storm. Meanwhile, no change in the condition of Adam Rybicki, critically injured in a collision with an alleged drunk, under-aged driver.

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California’s proposed three-foot passing law makes it onto the legislative agenda; provisions also include a requirement that drivers pass riders at no more than 15 mph above the speed of the bike, with a fine of $250 for violations. Meanwhile, Kansas cyclists get a shiny new three-foot passing law of their very own; that brings the total up to 17 states with a three-foot law.

And it could soon be illegal to use a hand-held cell phone while you ride.

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What kind of a jerk would steal a bike from a teenager with Downs Syndrome? As I’ve said before, there’s a special place in hell…

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Now you can round up your credit and debit card purchases, and contribute the difference to the Bikes Belong Foundation to support projects like People for Bikes and Safe Routes to School.

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The bike-hating New York Post once again smears Gotham cyclists, noting that 24% of riders they observed in bike lanes at a busy intersection ran red lights — but fails to note that the overwhelming majority didn’t. According to the paper, fifteen percent rode the wrong way or swerved in and out of bike lanes; yet once again, they neglect to mention that 85% stayed in the lanes and rode with traffic. Or the distinct possibility that cyclists swerved out of bike lanes because they were blocked by the city’s famously double-parking drivers or pedestrians who use the bike lane as an extra sidewalk.

They also get their hackles up over the 81 cyclists out of 7,182 riders — just over 1% — who rode on the sidewalk; something tells me a lot more drivers than that parked in the bike lane. And of course, when they describe an average of four near-collisions an hour, they fail to note who was at fault, absurdly implying that the cyclists were to blame in every case.

In a textbook example of pot calling kettle black an editorial today, the paper says “far too many cyclists are clueless, boors or bullies,” and calls for a continued crackdown on New York cyclists.

You have to admire a publication with such a firm commitment not to let facts or rationality sully their pages.

Meanwhile, some New York cyclists consider the city’s separated bike lanes “deathtraps;” however, the Wall Street Journal notes that the number of riders killed in them totals exactly zero.

And much-maligned NYDOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan joins the board of Occidental College; could this be a first step in coming back home to Los Angeles?

Pretty please?

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Will Campbell shares a photo of the ghost bike for shooting victim Manuel Santizo. LACBC wants your support for bike lanes on the soon-to-be-widened North Spring Street Bridge. LAPD bike cops could soon be zipping around on e-bikes. Streetsblog notes that removing Brentwood and the Westwood condo corridor reduces the effectiveness of the planned Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit lane by 40% — not to mention putting cyclists, who would share those lanes, at continued risk in some of the most dangerous sections of the boulevard. HuffPo offers a biking route from Echo Park to Venice Beach. Gather some friends together make your own Santa Monica CicLAvia. Help take CicLAvia to South L.A. Dancer ala Mode says her new career as a bike advocate began when someone stole her bike. Next time you need your Penny Farthing fixed, Flying Pigeon can handle the job.

Rick Risemberg visits the new separated bike lanes in Long Beach; Mihai and Gary Kavanagh seem impressed as well. A Monrovia High student nears a perfect season in the SoCal high school mountain bike league. Great bike photos from the Claremont Day of Champions. Bicycling’s ride of the day is our own Mt. Baldy. Long Beach’s biking expats Russ Roca and Laura Crawford are the proud owners of Bike Radar’s website of the week. A 17-year old OC cyclist riding on the 405 Freeway gets a good talking to from the police. A San Diego cyclist suffers a life-threatening injury after being doored by a driver getting out of her parked car.

A comprehensive beginners guide to bicycling. How bike economics can help beat the energy crisis. Wired looks at the culture of bike messengers. Complete Streets means the freedom to get around the way you want. A bike hating Tucson driver considers switching sides. Former president George W. Bush rides with the Wounded Warrior Project. Illinois police will now track dooring incidents, after originally saying they couldn’t. Minnesota reminds drivers to share the road after the state suffers its first cycling fatality of the year. A new campaign identifies bike-friendly businesses in New York; something tells me the Post won’t be one of them. Mo Rocca says when the U.S. becomes a third world country, we’ll all be riding bikes; hey, works for me.

Male drivers are twice as likely to have distracted-driving collisions as women. A London cabbie starts a campaign against high-intensity headlights, saying they put cyclists and others at risk by blinding drivers. An 81-year old UK man is killed in a collision with a cyclist. BoJo will be giving Will and Kate a tandem for a wedding present. Pharma Lotto rider Phillipe Gilbert wins three classics in a single week, though some question if the Schleck brothers handed the last one to him. Tel Aviv is the latest city to suffer a bikelash over bike lanes. South Jakarta gets its first bike lanes, though it looks more like motorcycle parking in the photos.

Finally, New York state police pepper spray a drunk cyclist. And a member of New York’s Transportation Alternatives board of directors says cyclists need to show we’ll use bike lanes responsibly; if drivers were held to that standard, no new roads would ever be built.


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