Dr. Christopher Thompson was found guilty by a superior court jury in Los Angeles County for assaulting a group of cyclists with his car. The case, which has captivated the cycling community nationwide, resulted in six felony verdicts after a fairly ordinary exchange turned into a brutal assault.
If you want all the details, you can't beat VeloNews' coverage. Go here and use the links in the sidebar for various stages of development.
But the supposed facts are that a group of cyclists were descending Mandeville Canyon Road -- a beloved stretch of pavement for cyclists in car-infested LA County -- when Thompson allegedly demanded that the cyclists proceed in single file. There seems to be some disagreement on whether the cyclists complied and/or bristled at Thompson, but what happened next is beyond dispute. Thompson passed the cyclists, then slammed on his brakes in front of the group of riders descending quickly down the hill. The results: [don't read if you're squeamish]
Stoehr hit the back of the car and vaulted into the oncoming traffic lane. His injuries included a grade-three shoulder separation and road rash. Peterson went through the rear window of the car; the impact broke his nose, nearly severing it from his face, and shattered several of his teeth. More than 90 stitches were required to reattach his nose.
Incredibly, this incident on July 4 was the second time Thompson was accused of attacking cyclists; in an earlier incident he stopped short on two other riders, who deftly bunny-hopped out of danger. One horrified officer testified that Thompson said he "wanted to teach them a lesson." Thompson faces up to six years in jail.
And now my editorializing: as a cyclist -- racer and commuter for many years -- I truly believe that the American roads are chock full of drivers who view bikes as threats, intrusions, inconveniences, and second-class citizens who can be bullied at will. Ignorance is tough to stamp out, but things are changing. The political efforts of the Congressional Bike Caucus and the League of American Bicyclists are commendable. An article in today's LA Times details the rapid increase in cycling and bike commuting, and as the article says, there is safety in numbers. But this case matters a great deal too: harsh verdicts have some potential to wake people up to the dangers, and the rejection of Thompson's defense that the riders were rude to him is a HUGE deal. Most drivers have no idea what it's like to be as vulnerable as we cyclists are, and I personally am extremely defensive and unpleasant toward anyone who might prevent me from seeing my kids grow up.
Anyway, thanks for your attention. Please check out VeloNews for their coverage of legal issues generally. The LA Times has covered the trial as well.