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

February 4, 2011

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.


Breaking news: Michael Nine case ends in hung jury; retrial begins next week

November 20, 2010

Somehow, I missed this story last night; fortunately, Richard Masoner at Cyclelicious seldom seems to miss anything.

He sends word that the trial of Jose Louis Huerta Mundo, charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter in the July death of cyclist Michael Nine in Newport Beach, has ended in a hung jury. According the Daily Pilot, there’s no word on how the jury broke down in in favor or against conviction.

However, the courts aren’t wasting any time; a new trial is set to begin on Tuesday, November 23rd.


Oxnard cyclist killed in Sunday collision; 14th SoCal bike death in last four months

November 16, 2010

In yet another SoCal cycling fatality, 20-year old Rene Ambritz was struck and killed in Oxnard on Saturday.

The collision occurred about 6:45 pm at the intersection of Ventura Road and West Hemlock Street. The Ventura County Star reports that Ambritz was riding against traffic with no lights, and was struck by a van driven by Paul Castenada after Ambritz ran the red light. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

His death marks the 14th cycling fatality I’m aware of in Southern California since the beginning of August.

.………

In other cycling collisions, an unidentified ninja cyclist is in intensive care after reportedly running a red light and getting hit by a car in Thousand Oaks late Sunday; the rider was wearing dark clothing and riding without lights, and had no identification on him at the time of the collision.

And fifty-nine-year old cyclist Donald Schick suffered major injuries in a Castaic hit-and-run on Sunday afternoon. Stephanie Leann Argo of Castaic was later arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and felony hit-and-run.

Outside the Southern California area, a teenage Vacaville cyclist was killed after being hit by two cars last week; thanks to Witch on a Bicycle for the link.

Meanwhile, a noted NorCal track coach was severely injured in a hit-and-run while riding his bike; reading between the lines, it sounds like it could have been an intentional assault by an impatient driver. And a dangerous stretch of highway may finally get a bike lane, too late for the rider killed there two weeks ago; it was the 2nd cycling fatality for the driver involved.

Finally, Jose Luis Huerta Mundo, the driver who killed OC cyclist Michael Nine last July, is currently on trial for misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter. A Costa Mesa writer notes that Mundo was in the country illegally and had been cited four previous times for driving without a license, as well as once for not registering his truck, and had ignored two signs prohibiting the illegal maneuver that resulted in Nine’s Death. However, he stresses that now is not the time to hate.

Seriously, as angry as we may get, is there ever a good time for that?


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