So Marty Erzinger pled guilty to two misdemeanors yesterday. He should have been pleading guilty to a felony reckless assault charge. He should have manned up and taken responsibility for his actions, inactions or presence at the scene where Steven Milo suffered life altering injuries.
Instead he got the compassionate support of the DA, the judge, and probably a lot of drivers out there who think cyclists shouldn't be on the road in the first place.
And the whole case comes down to money. Its the OJ Simpson effect. Erzinger represents a great deal of money and therefore he is the subject of unmerited and undeserved favor. His defense has been that he had undiagnosed sleep apnea, again, because if he had known he had sleep apnea before then he could still be considered reckless for getting behind the wheel. And the most recent absurdity is that he succumbed to the fumes from his "new car smell."
From the Vail Daily:
The “fairy tales” of sleep apnea and a leather car smell — both presented by Erzinger's attorney, Richard Tegtmeier, as causes for the accident — are embarrassing and insulting, Milo said.
Compare this story to another recent local story, where a motorist hit expectant mother Laurie Gorham and fled the scene. Horrific to say the least, tragic because Gorham lost her baby a day later and is still in the hospital a week later.
The outrage is palpable. It's mind boggling that someone would hit a pregnant woman and leave. That's cold and ruthless. That's selfish beyond selfish.
But once the authorities catch this person the perpetrator has a nice two-pronged defense that's guaranteed to work. The criminal can say they unknowingly suffered from sleep apnea and/or succumbed to new car fumes. They'll get probation and maybe 90 days in jail if they're as suave as Benzinger. Unless they don't drive a new Mercedes. What if they drive a beat up '90s model Chevy Blazer? Oh, they might be screwed then.
Last night police responded to a call from a witness to the hit and run reporting the vehicle that he had seen strike Gorham. They seized the SUV at a Walmart no less. This poor schmuck isn't going to be able to afford the same level of legal defense that Benzinger could. He's (or she's) gonna ride the lightning. He's gonna meet his maker.
Now, to be fair, Benzinger didn't kill an unborn child. He did cripple a man for life and then blamed it on his new car smell.
I mean, how...pretentious is that?! "I'm sorry I hit you, I was awash in a cloud of bliss at the smell of my new Mercedes Benzzzzzz."
No, Benzinger didn't even really say he was sorry. He dodged responsibility like lawyers in this country have trained us to. And while I hope justice is applied adequately once they find the driver who struck Gorham, I know that the public perception will be different, and I know that if this person is some working class stiff who was texting or talking on their phone at the time they hit Gorham then they'll hang 'em.
I wonder if anyone examined Benzinger's cell phone history?
Well, it doesn't matter, it's like I yelled at some pretty blond woman who was blabbering on her cell with one hand while steering her Mercedes through Arvada the other day, "I guess Mercedes ALWAYS have the right-of-way!!!"
But leaving the fast and furious world of hit-and-run drama for the time being, let me tell you about my ride home last night...on Ridge Road.
I was pedaling through suburban Applewood last night and I decided that I wasn't going to run scared or frustrated from Ridge Road just because a couple (or three) morons couldn't be considerate. I decided I would acknowledge and maintain my entitlement to the right couple of feet of eastbound Ridge Road.
I had one truck get a little too close, but I had prayed hard that I would keep my cool, be visible, be vigilant and be consistent and get it done. I refrained from gesturing or cursing at the truck.
But as it dwindled in the distance I noticed an odd cluster of headlights headed west, I noticed the moron who had passed too close braking and I wondered what was going on up ahead.
I soon found out as I got close enough to see a Wheat Ridge city cop sitting midway between Tabor and Kipling. Everybody was screeching to their best behavior as they saw the black and white car in the fading light.
I rode past with a huge smile on my face.
What amazes me most about the hostile motorists who think it's cute to buzz cyclists is that they are playing a much more serious game than they realize. They think they're making some kind of social statement and exercising their freedom of expression I'm sure, but what they're really doing is acting in an unacceptably reckless manner. If they waved a gun at someone the consequences would be much more severe than if they get reported to CSP's aggressive driver hotline (*CSP, got it on speed dial, I've used it twice) for driving fast within inches of a cyclist while honking their horn.
It's not a game and it's not funny. I do have a right to use my bike on the road by law and I generally obey the law to the letter.
When you hear motorists defend their reckless behavior the logical inconsistencies are frightening. So A cyclist blew through a stop sign in front of you two weeks ago. That does not give you any good reason to buzz that cyclist or any other and endanger their lives.
Would it be just to force you to play russian roulette because you ran a stop sign in your extended cab pickup while yammering on your cell phone? I didn't think so.
If you think a cyclist has broken the law then the proper course of action would be to report that action to the police. Same as if you saw another motorist break the law. If you saw a kid in a Mustang run a stop sign would you buzz the old man in the Dodge Diplomat driving five miles an hour under the speed limit in front of you? Well, probably. But does it make sense to rational human beings? No.
Well, I have better things to do today than go on a perpetual rant. I saw the Benzinger headline and it just went through me. That case is the perfect example with what's wrong with our legal system.
It doesn't matter who has the inherent responsibility in a matter, and I'll be the first to say that on the road EVERYONE, including cyclists, have the utmost responsibility for their own actions, that the moving environment of roads is all choice and no chance, but motorists operate vehicles that have the potential energy to destroy almost anything in their paths. There is a great responsibility that comes with that power and most of us seem to disregard that responsibility while lawyers in this country have given us to the tools to divert attention from our own careless mistakes.