Help D.A. Mary Stone Keep the Road Rage Doc Behind Bars

11_3_09_ct.jpgHe’s behind bars now, but should he stay there? Photo: Los Angeles Times

Next Monday, District Attorney Mary Stone will file her motion recommending a prison sentence for Dr. Christopher Thompson, the "Road Rage Doctor" who intentionally used his car as a weapon against recreational cyclists on Mandeville Canyon on July 4, 2008. With her motion she’ll also hand over a packet of letters of support for stricter sentencing from a community that has been effected by Thompson’s aggressive act.

So here’s the deal, you can email a letter of support to Stone at mstone@da.lacounty.gov. She stressed that the best letters open with a description of who you are and why you care before going in to other details. For example, you could say, "I’m a writer who focuses on transportation issues and I spend too much time writing about the tragedies created by unsafe driving."

Stephen Box also writes that this provides an opportunity to incorporate two planks of the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights. Article one states that cyclists have the right to "travel safely and free of fear." Article Four states that cyclists "have the right to the full support of our judicial system and the right to expect that those who endanger, injure or kill cyclists be dealt with to the full extent of the law."

If you need more inspiration, you can read my letter after the jump.

A major hat tip to Ross Hirsch who did the majority of the legwork on this article.

To Whom It May Concern:

I’m a writer who focuses on transportation issues. I spend too much time writing about the tragedies created by unsafe driving. It seems that every week I have to make a choice on whether or not to write another story about an unsafe driver mowing down a defenseless pedestrian or cyclist. However, no matter how heart-rendering the story, no crash story has held my attention as had the prosecution of Christopher Thompson.

Typically, the reaction of drivers who cause a crash is either remorse or a desire to hide. Thompson’s sense of self-pride about his actions, a view that has disgustingly been defended by too many members of the car-driving public, was completely shocking. Bragging on his cell phone to the dispatcher. Talking tough to the responding officer.

That Thompson has become a symbol to both unsafe drivers and cyclists of the worst instincts of the car-driving public is immaterial. That Thompson’s unsafe driving caused serious injuries on two cyclists is reason enough to convict him. That he did so intentionally and proudly makes him deserving of jail time.

If we don’t hold him accountable to the fullest extent of the law for his actions, what threshold would an unsafe driver have to meet to be deserving of jail-time? He didn’t just cause a crash he did so with purpose.

All of us, safe drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, will be more safe with Thompson behind bars instead of behind a wheel.

  • Will Campbell
  • dudeonabike

    Here’s mine:

    Dear Hon. Millington:

    I am an attorney, a father of two young boys (both of whom regularly bike on the streets of Los Angeles), and a daily bike commuter from Los Feliz to my office in downtown Los Angeles.

    I read with not only sadness—but thoughts concerning a fear for my own life as a vulnerable cyclist on city streets—the case of Dr. Thompson, his reprehensible actions, and the injuries that he so unnecessarily inflicted on the cyclists in Mandeville Canyon.

    I, too, have been the victim of unnecessary harassment and intentionally malicious driver behavior—just for cycling on our city streets. Frankly I’m lucky to still be here to write this letter, and luckily my injuries were significantly less severe those inflicted upon the victims by Dr. Thompson.

    But unfortunately, many drivers seem to be unaware of the consequences of taking out road rage on cyclists—just for cycling on our city streets. And unfortunately, it seems many of our own LAPD are either unaware or unwilling to treat such criminal behavior for what it is.

    I can’t help but think over and over again on every ride what if I were the victim of a similar act of intentional violence? What would my two boys be feeling if I were not to show up for dinner one night? What type of worry would my wife have to endure upon receiving that call, after hours of hand wringing, from an emergency room informing that her husband’s skull had been propelled through the rear window of a driver that “wanted to teach him a lesson.” For cycling?

    A strong sentence will reverberate loudly to our fellow motor vehicle driving community that intentionally harmful or vindictive behavior will not be tolerated–and will be severely punished.

    A strong sentence will send a message to our LAPD, whose enforcement of crimes such as these is historically lax, that if a driver intentionally hits a cyclist, he/she will be prosecuted and go to jail.

    I am compelled to write this letter because I feel that Your Honor has a chance to chip away at the severely outdated notions held by drivers, law enforcement, and possibly our elected officials that keep many off their bikes and in fear of their lives. I plead with my wife and have to regularly convince her (and scores of other parents with whom I regularly see) that it’s ok for me to bike with my sons on city streets. She’s afraid we’ll all die. That is so wrong. True, accidents happen, but intentional infliction of grave bodily harm of the kind doled out by Dr. Thompson simply never should. But when it does, the consequences must be dire.

    This defendant must be taken off our streets, this defendant must have his driver’s license revoked, this defendant should be forced to fund an insurance trust that would pay for the medical bills and expenses of cyclists for those that have no insurance or ability to pay for their cycling injuries.

    Thank you for your consideration.

  • Brent

    I mailed an old-school letter yesterday:

    I am a pedestrian, cyclist, and motorist. Since 1996, I have walked to work, a twenty-minute journey from my apartment to my office in Century City. Last year, I returned to my teen-age passion for bicycling, when I purchased a new bicycle on July 4, 2008. Since then, I have regularly ridden more miles weekly than I drive.

    I find it symbolic that Dr. Christopher Thompson’s attack on Ron Peterson and Christian Stoehr happened on the very day I restarted my cycling life. My walking experience in Los Angeles has always carried its dangers, but bicycling has proven to be on a different level altogether. In the short time since I returned to riding, I have had several close calls with cars, with many incidents bordering on the intentional, or at least grossly negligent.

    I know neither the injured cyclists nor the doctor, but when Thompson was convicted, I felt a palpable sense of relief. This conviction delivers an important message to the drivers of Los Angeles, that sharing the road with non-motorists is the law, and that breaking the law has serious consequences.

    Thompson now faces sentencing. From what I understand, one possible outcome is probation. If such light sentencing emboldened him to return to the streets with a renewed desire to “teach cyclists a lesson,” I would be horrified. For the sake of my safety, and for the safety of the many law-abiding road users in this great city, he needs to be kept off the roads for as long as possible.

  • Carter

    Done, here’s mine. And, thanks for letting us all know how we can have input on this hugely important issue.

    From the time I was two years old to when I left for college, I lived with my family on Mandeville Canyon Road. Despite the ubiquitous presence of bike riders on Mandeville, they are still at constant risk from reckless drivers who speed and swerve around them, ignorant of the rights of bike riders to share in the use of our roads just as anyone else.

    It would be unconscionable and a grave miscarriage of justice if Mr. Thompson were to get off with anything short of several years behind bars. His was a violent and horrifying act of aggression against defenseless members of my community, as bad as though he went into their homes and assaulted them with any sort of weapon.

    Please, do everything in your power to obtain the strictest sentence for Mr. Thompson. We as a community cannot allow this sort of heinous act to stand.

  • Damien, just one quick comment on your letter:

    This line in the first paragraph: “However, no matter how heart-rendering the story”

    the term is ‘heartrending’

    Sorry, can’t help it. I’m a hell-on-wheels proofreader ;)

    Feel free to delete this comment.

  • thanks for this notice damien. i wrote a letter as well.

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