Phil Matier: Bicyclist’s Unique Plea Deal In Deadly SF Castro Crash
SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — The cyclist who fatally struck a 71-year-old-pedestrian in San Francisco last year pleaded guilty to felony vehicular manslaughter on Monday. San Francisco prosecutors said it’s the first conviction of its kind.
Under a plea agreement, however, 37-year-old Chris Bucchere of Marin County will not serve any time in jail. Instead, he will be sentenced to 1,000 hours of community service when he goes before the judge in San Francisco Superior Court on Aug. 16.
Sutchi Hui, 71, died four days after Bucchere hit him at Castro and Market streets on March 29, 2012.
“Our goal is to send a message” to cyclists, District Attorney George Gascon said. “The rules of the road still apply to you, you have to be responsible.”
“Often, bicyclists feel they are above the law,” he said.
While no one is ever completely happy with a plea deal or even a jury verdict for that matter, justice is always somewhere in the middle—or not exactly where you want it to be—for the parties concerned.
The family of the elderly victim is okay with it, the District Attorney’s office feel like they made their point by getting a felony conviction and I’m quite sure that Bucchere is pleased. While it is a felony, it can be reduced to misdemeanor if he completes his community service and mostly importantly, he’s not going to serve any time in jail. Faced with that, anyone would want to reach for a plea deal.
There was previous case, a year earlier, when Randolph Ang, 23, struck and killed a grandmother from Washington D.C. along the Embarcadero on his way to work in 2011. He was only charged with misdemeanor manslaughter.
The difference between now and then is attitude and timing.
Ang, from the beginning, was remorseful. He was rushing to his first day for a new job and admitted making a terrible mistake. The victim’s family didn’t want him to serve time in jail; he pleaded to a misdemeanor.
Bucchere, however, is a wealthy tech entrepreneur from Marin who was racing his expensive bike through the city. Travelling at a high speed, was recorded by a web app that he used. He was witnessed by many blowing though stop signs along Castro Street to Market Street.
To make matters worse, he boasted on a website—from his hospital room—about how he made the decision to plow through the intersection and thanked his helmet for saving him. In the court of the public opinion there was no way he was just going to get a misdemeanor.
It was also a time when many people were getting fed up with out-of-control bicyclists who nailing pedestrians on sidewalks. Enough was enough and that was big change from the first accident.
While everyone complains that many cyclists are jerks, the truth is we are all in on it. We have jerky drivers just like we have jerky cyclists. A lot of us in the Bay Area are just going too fast for our own good and we don’t stop for anything whether it’s on two wheels, four wheels or, lately, two legs.
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