Misdemeanour prosecution sparks outrage in Colorado hit-and-run case

Cyclist left lying seriously injured while wealthy driver calls Mercedes-Benz for help with car

by Mark Appleton   November 6, 2010  

Gavel

We can’t pretend to be knowledgeable about the US legal system, but that doesn’t mean we can’t smell the stench of something rotten when it wafts over to this side of the Atlantic.

A high-profile hit-and-run case currently proceeding in the state of Colorado really is enough to make the stomach of all right-thinking people churn, given the nauseating implications it has for the perception of cyclists as road-using untermensch.

The case, as reported by the Vail Daily, involves cyclist Dr. Steven Milo, a transplant surgeon from New York, who, while riding near the town of Vail was struck from behind by a Mercedes-Benz car driven by  wealthy personal financial manager, Martin Joel Erzinger.

After the collision, which left Dr. Milo with spinal cord injuries, bleeding from his brain and damage to his knee and scapula, Erzinger sped off and drove to the car park of a Pizza Hut restaurant where phoned for assistance from Mercedes-Benz to deal with his damaged car. While showing plenty of concern for his vehicle he did not, however, appear to think it worthwhile to notify the authorities about the damaged cyclist he had just left lying in the gutter.

Under the US system it is usually down to a locally elected District Attorney to determine the charges for a criminal offence and in this instance the prosecutor, Mark Hurlbert, has decided that despite the seriousness of Dr Milo’s injuries, the flight of Erzinger from the scene and his failure to notify the authorities about the collision, he should be prosecuted for nothing more than a misdemeanour offence rather than a more serious felony.

It appears that Erzinger’s legal defence team has suggested that a felony prosecution would affect their client’s ability to do his job as he would be forced to disclose any such conviction to his wealthy clients, for whom he is said to manage $1billion worth of assets.

Not surprisingly the case has sparked outrage in the US and has been reported nationally, with calls for the District Attorney to be removed from office and for a felony charge to be reinstated against Erzinger. We'll keep you posted on this one.
 

10 user comments

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Surely now his name is spread across newspapers and websites any clients he has will know of his "misdemeanour", so why not the greater charge? Confused

posted by spen [98 posts]
6th November 2010 - 20:09

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In Britain, leaving the scene of an accident where someone has been injured is not only a criminal offence but will leave the police highly suspicious of why you chose to do so. Surely the Colorado police must have similar suspicions? And arrest powers?

posted by londonplayer [671 posts]
6th November 2010 - 23:27

1 Like

Quite right LP, but it seems that Erzinger's defence team have suggested their man may suffer from sleep apnoea which caused him to fall asleep at the wheel, strike the cyclist, wake up without realising he'd left someone for dead, drive on for some distance then decide to stop and call Mercedes-Benz for assistance.

Apparently they have trouble with airborne pigs in Colorado too...

posted by Mark Appleton [554 posts]
7th November 2010 - 15:41

2 Likes

Not been on the news here in Vegas

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2401 posts]
7th November 2010 - 21:01

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OldRidgeback wrote:
Not been on the news here in Vegas

what you doing in vegas, ORB? take yr bike? Big Grin

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7579 posts]
7th November 2010 - 21:19

1 Like

Working here in Vegas, no bike so had to go for a run this morning along the strip.

The Colorado case is disgraceful. Given that the victim is a doctor though and doctors do earn a lot here in the US and also have some pull, I suspect there may be appeals coming and further action against the driver.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2401 posts]
8th November 2010 - 1:42

1 Like

I fail to see how suffering from sleep apnoea makes it any better: doesn't that just mean he shouldn't be behind the wheel in the first place? Thinking

timlennon's picture

posted by timlennon [229 posts]
8th November 2010 - 10:03

1 Like

"It appears that Erzinger’s legal defence team has suggested that a felony prosecution would affect their client’s ability to do his job"

He should have thought about that beforehand. It's why there are laws.

It's like the drink-driver's defence when caught - "but I'll lose my job if I get banned". Tough sh*t, and it's better than someone losing a life.

Anyway, if he's that successful he can hire a driver.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2148 posts]
8th November 2010 - 10:10

1 Like

"he shouldn't be behind the wheel in the first place" -

Yes. Certainly in the UK, OSA - obstructive sleep apnoea - is a diagnosis you have to tell the DVLA about. And they are likely to stop you driving until your symptoms of excessive daytime sleepiness improve (when you're on adequate treatment).

It's usually spotted by GPs but diagnosed in sleep clinics, run by experienced respiratory physicians - and they ALWAYS ask, "do you drive?" and inform patients of their responsibility to tell the DVLA.

Using it as a defence is like saying, "yes I shot him, but I'd just bought this new gun and was waving it around, working out how best to pull the trigger".

PJ McNally's picture

posted by PJ McNally [591 posts]
8th November 2010 - 10:12

1 Like

It seems the defence team suggested he might have "unknowingly" suffered from this condition - which is rather convenient for them.

posted by Mark Appleton [554 posts]
8th November 2010 - 11:43

2 Likes