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For a successful hit-and-run defence, wake up and smell the seat leather

Judge accepts wealthy fund manager's plea bargain, sentences accordingly ...

Martin Erzinger, the wealthy American fund manager involved in a hit and run incident in Colorado in which a cyclist was left for dead, has had his misdemeanour plea bargain accepted.

As a result he has been able to plead guilty to a relatively minor offence for which he has received a suspended 90 day jail term, a driving ban and financial penalties.

The case sparked outrage when the local District Attorney, Mark Hurlbert, decided not to charge Erzinger with a felony offence, apparently out of concern that the fund manager might lose his job, despite strong evidence that he had attempted to conceal his involvement in the crash which took place near Edwards, Colorado in July.

His lawyers equally attracted widespread ridicule by suggesting the “new car smell” in his Mercedes could have triggered an attack of sleep apnoea – previously undiagnosed in their client. This attack somehow allowed Erzinger to fall asleep at the wheel, strike cyclist Dr. Steven Milo, a surgeon from New York causing him serious injuries, wake up without realising he had hit someone, drive three miles, hide his car behind a building and call for assistance from Mercedes-Benz about his damaged bumper.

To the astonishment of many who have followed the case, the judge who considered the plea bargain, District Court Judge Frederick Gannett, found the plea was within a “realm of reasonableness,” and consequently allowed it.

Although his jail term is suspended, Erzinger will be required to complete either 60 days of work release in a local jail or undertake 45 consecutive days of community service. He was also banned from driving for a year.

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