Breaking News: “Road Rage” Dr. Christopher Thompson Gets Five Years

laist_1.jpgThe image that strated it all. For more images of the crash, visit the original Streetsblog story.

Reporting live from the courthouse, Danny Jimenez, aka DJ Wheels, reports that the defense’s motion for probation was denied in the case of the Mandeville Canyon Road Rage Doctor.  Dr. Christopher Thompson will receive five years in jail for intentionally causing a crash on July 4th that hospitalized two cyclists.  Thompson received two years for assault with a deadly weapon for his attack on Ron Peterson with a three year enhancement for causing great bodily injury.

For anyone reading Streetsblog for the first time, during a Fourth of July ride in 2008 Thompson approached a group of cyclists that were training in Mandeville Canyon.  After honking at the cyclists, they "exchanged words" and Thompson passed them.  He then cut back in front of them and slammed on his brakes, causing the cyclists to slam into the rear of his car.  Peterson, an experienced cyclist who actually teaches bike safety, crashed through Thompson’s rear window, bringing horrific pictures to both blogs and the mainstream news of the cyclists and the damage to Thompson’s car.

What helped make the story mainstream news was the way Thompson acted after the crash.  On a 911 call, he can be heard yelling at the fallen cyclists to get their bikes off the road and assured the dispatcher that they weren’t that bad off even as the group lay broken and bleeding in the street.  During his trial, Thompson’s defense tried to blame the victims and his neighbors in Mandeville Canyon rose to his defense because, ya know, cyclists are annoying and all.

For a complete overview of Thompson’s assault, the coverage, the trial and sentencing; visit the Streetsblog archives here.

(Update, 11:30) Of course, this was never just about one crash in a city that sees examples of "car v cyclist" or "car v pedestrian" crashes nearly every day; it was about sending a message that Los Angeles’ roads are dangerous enough without drivers taking their idea of vigilante justice into their own hands.  In the LA Now artice on the sentencing, they quote Superior Court Judge Scott Millington.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Scott T. Millington called
the case a "wake-up call" to motorists and cyclists and urged local
government to provide riders with more bike lanes. He said he believed
that Thompson had shown a lack of remorse during the case and that the
victims were particularly vulnerable while riding their bicycles.

I agree with Millington.  If the end result of this case is one sad doctor spends five years in jail, then justice is only partially served.  Instead, this case needs to be a wake up call to a city who’s attitude towards cyclist safety is cavalier at best.

(Update, 11:35) As for the letter writing campaign by cyclists encouraging a harsh sentence?  Over 270 letters were received, from literally all over the world, but judge Millington says he didn’t consider them.

  • As a member of this dumb society of ours, I am okay with the sentence. Just thought I’d throw in a message of support from a non-cyclist.

  • mcbstrd

    Well spoken BoyleHeightser and Shredwood.

  • Dinglish

    “Well spoken BoyleHeightser and Shredwood”

    Surly you mean well written BoyleHeightser and Shredwood

  • Dinglish

    Question;

    Is there be any suport for a reduced sentence in exchange for a large P.R campaign with the doctors face repeatedly showing up on all the T.V stations delivering the message “I got five years because I didn’t like cyclists! They have rights. Leave them be. Its not worth it!” Or something to that affect.

    What do you think guys? We might be able find one small positive from this ugly situation.

  • illwafer

    too bad he didn’t kill any of the cyclists, or he might have gotten off!

    http://www.sdnn.com/sandiego/2010-01-08/local-county-news/courts/motorist-gets-probation-in-bicyclist-death-case

  • mcbstrd

    … just a manner of speech Dinglish :-)

  • mcbstrd

    Maybe the bloke in illwater’s link wold be the perfect person to head up the PR campaign of which Dinblish speaks.

  • Concerned driver

    They called Dr. Thompson a monster when the real monsters are the bicyclists who threatened his life and his wifes, have repeatedly uttered extremely frightening and unworthy things about drivers and him in general, and have shown themselves to not want to SHARE the road, but own it. My daughter and I have, on more than one occasion, been flipped off and almost hit by unthinking bicyclists, when we have always been respectful of cyclists on the road.

    I knew Dr. Thompson for 13 years. It is my continued pleasure to know him and believe this was an accident that was played into a money-maker by those involved. Shame on the cyclists for all the scary threats and how much damage they did to residents of Mandeville Canyon. Two sides to every story. Too bad the media heard and only reported one.

  • roadblock

    concerned driver. the cyclists were travelling AT THE SPEED LIMIT 30MPH (technically 29MPH) as proven by their gps data. these were not uncaring occupants of the road they were law abiding citizens being harassed by a MONSTER. Dr. DEATH had to break the law TWICE to pass them before he reacted in probably the stupidest way he could have. what a complete idiot. the guy had it all and his biggest beef in life was that some cyclists got in the way of his speeding. too bad for him. he will survive. 95% of the world didnt have the lifestyle he gave up with not just one bad decision but a pattern of escalation and increasingly violent decisions. the word on facebook, through mutual friends is that he was a habitual rager in other facets of his life.

    As Mary Stone indicated in her brilliant closing arguments, this raging moron crossed a HUGE line by assaulting and frankly attempting to murder these cyclists. after all, they could have been standing in front of Thompsaon’s mansion in the street with their pants down flipping the guy off and the law still would not allow him to commit assault with a deadly weapon. Learn ya lesson the hard way if you must.

    The guy will only get 2.5 years and then be eligible for parole. Just so long as he doesnt rage on any of the prisoners or guards, he should be out and about. Thank the universe that he won’t be driving in California EVER AGAIN.

  • Dinglish

    Concerned driver;

    What drugs are you on?

  • Concerned Driver,

    Good points there. Y’know, assault isn’t really assault if the victims brought the attack on themselves by saying a potty mouth word. Hey, lets make the same exception for murderers: anyone who says the F word can be legally shot! Also, let’s change municipal, state and federal law so that the personal friends of one goddamn person in Mandeville Canyon can never be found guilty of anything! Those evil bicyclists with their filthy mouths shall pay, let’s lock ’em up and put soap in their mouths.

  • Dinglish

    Concerned driver;

    It seems that you are having a difficult time getting your head around the fact that he is no longer “Dr Thompson” a respected M.D but is now known as “Inmate Thompson #123456789” a five time convicted felon. As to the question of weather this was an accident or not, that was answered by a jury of his peers last year with five simple words; Guilty,Guilty,Guilty,Guilty,Guilty.

    It is a fools errand trying to defend the indefensible.

  • Concerned Driver,

    This is a terrible situation where there are no winners. Everyone lost–the victims (who were the cyclists, not your friend), former-Dr. Thompson (who has lost his livlihood and reputation and freedom), the community (loss of an ER doc and increased volality between cyclists and motorists), and more.

    The fact remains that your friend made some bad decisions compiled upon more bad decisions, and now a court of law has decided that he must pay for his crimes which resulted from his bad decisions. I’m sorry your friend made those bad decisions; however, we all learned in kindergarten that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.” Mr. Thompson violently attacked some people who got in his way, and whether or not they shouted an expletive or flipped the bird does not matter.

    I am sorry that you feel cyclists are such a menace (although if you ever road a bike in LA, I assure you that you would feel that most motorists are a menace!). I invite you to ride with me anytime and see that there are number of law-abiding, friendly, and considerate cyclists on the streets of LA.

  • roadblock

    I was at the closing arguments and the verdict.. the evidence was clear on the 911 tapes as Thompson’s irritated and heartless voice commanded the seriously injured cyclists to “move your bike” sent chills throughout the courtroom… the whole procedure was intense and riveting. more powerful than a Shaq dunk at a Laker game front row was seeing the Judge deny bail and the Bailiff “slam dunking” the cuffs on this moron. whew! though I feel the sentence was light, I think the complete and total shame of it all, plus Thompson losing his lifestyle – he had to sell his house and move in with his daddy – is a reality that might give slightly smarter would be roadragers a bit of pause…. hopefully.

  • Dinglish

    Hello Roadblock;

    I don’t know if you, or DJ Wheels, can help answer the following question: Is it true that after Ron and Christian were hauled of to the hospital every decision regarding prosecution was made by the D.A, the judge, and the jury? Could Ron and Christian have changed the course of the legal proceedings (even if they had wanted too) or was Thompsons fate sealed the moment the collision occured? Seems very strange that Thompsons crowd seem so insistant on blaming the victims for all of the decisions and judgements of the legal system?

  • roadblock

    Dinglish as far as I understand the case was the between the people of california vs. Thompson. Petersen and victims were only witnesses and could not affect the people’s case. civil court is another matter.

  • SteveL

    I think everyone regrets this happened: no cyclist wants to end up in hospital with facial injuries, no car driver wants to end up in prison.

    A lot of the cycling community are hopeful that this will show the drivers in LA that there are limits “sends a message” -but judging by some of the comments and all the ex-doctor’s supporters, it could just lead to polarisation. “Those cyclists got a doctor put in prison”. Those commenters who are quite sure that the cyclists weren’t speeding and staged the crash clearly think exactly that. Those people aren’t going to change their behaviour, and they are the ones to worry about, the ones who swerve extra close, the ones who get right behind you and intimidate you. Those are the ones that cyclists need to worry about, and this incident may not be something that’s really going to change people’s behavior.

  • Dinglish

    Hi Roadblock;

    Thats what I thought too. It just seems odd that there are so many posts intent on blaming the cycling community for an outcome that they could not influence. On a personal note, if we ever ride together you will quickly surrender your “roadblock” handle to me. Sad but true.

  • DJwheels

    Dinglish,

    Yeah, the only way for the cyclists to have influenced the direction of this case is if they had originally decided to NOT call the police and press charges. Otherwise, once the investigation began and the report filed with the District Attorney and later the court, the criminal case was out of their hands.

    I think many people who believe the incident was solely the fault of the cyclists fail to understand all the facts of the case. Thompson had his opportunity to tell his side of the story from the witness stand and the jury didn’t buy it! Case closed.

  • Dinglish

    DJwheels;
    Thats what I thought. Wonder how to get that message out and about.

    Thanks

  • I’m only familiar with the basics of the case, but I thought Thompson was the one who called the police/ambulance? Just curious.

  • Dinglish

    Danceralamode;

    I suspect many people called the police/ambulance that day. There were a lot of people riding that day and many of them knew Ron and Christean personally as freinds.

  • Shredword

    Concerned Driver:
    You may have been flipped off or almost hit by cyclists, but I would bet that you’ve never had your nose ripped from your face by a cyclist who wanted to teach you a lesson. You see there is a difference. One of these is a crime.

    It doesn’t matter how fast the cyclists were going or if they yelled at the doc (er…uh, the inmate), or even flipped him off. Your dear friend does not have the right to violently teach them lessons with his car. People get locked up for using violence every day. This is no different. If you were a real friend, you would encourage the inmate to reexamine his behavior and own up to the immorality and recklessness of his actions.

    I disagree with those who say there are no winners here. The people of the state of CA are all winners here. We, drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists, got a very dangerous person off the road for a couple of years. I am also relieved that a person of such poor judgment and violent tendencies will not be practicing medicine for a while. These are good things. The inmate can win here too if he owns up to his actions and learns from his terrible terrible mistake. Even Concerned Driver can be a winner too if she learns that a real friend would demand responsible and moral behavior from the inmate because that is what is best for the inmate.

  • dlr

    regarding illwafer’s comment:

    too bad he didn’t kill any of the cyclists, or he might have gotten off!

    http://www.sdnn.com/sandiego/2010-01-08/local-county-news/courts/motorist-gets-probation-in-bicyclist-death-case

    These types of stories are extremely disturbing to hear. The attitute of the police (or reporter) seems clear in the statement that the driver JUST took his eyes of the road causing the accident. Driving a car and not watching the road enough to avoid hitting a bike with blinking lights is willfully negligent similarly to the way that driving intoxicated is and if that had caused the accident likely the penalty would be higher. I wonder if he had hit a car and killed a person if the the penalty would be different. I welcome any comments on these types of cases.

  • Is it too late to correct my own spelling error and say I meant “rode a bike” not “road a bike”?

  • limit

    A bad situation all around, with the truth somewhere in the middle – a truth that we will never know. Share the road and keep humble.

  • Dinglish

    “a truth that we will never know”… Nonsense. The jury was the finder of fact, not to mention the GPS!

    It is really nausiating to see so many people trying to attatch fault to the victims. A five year sentance speaks volumes to the fact that Ron and Christean were blameless here! Please do not enable the next Thompson.

  • limit if it was really an accident jail time would not have even been considered. This guy was clearly a maniac. A well-meaning person would have not gone to jail.

    When drivers are close to succumbing to road rage, they should remember what happened to Thompson. Count to ten, let it go and drive away before there is an altercation. This goes for cyclists too.

  • And those who are truly wrong should not take matters into their own hands. If Thompson felt that cyclists on that road were a problem, he should have taken it to the proper authorities to have an honest discussion about the issue.

  • Pete Kaplana

    I always remind myself to ‘let it go”don’t get mad’ but everytime someone flips me off or yells F…you to my face I get upset! I realize there is no law against. In California you can walk up to Police Office, stick both middle fingers in his face and tell him to F…you and he can’t do anything about it. I learned to be careful who I provoke because some people aren’t as cool as others. And evidently Dr. Thompson wasn’t that cool. But if he was a complete hot head he could have just run-over Kevin Stallworth.

    I hope everyone learned something from this incident, I did.

  • I learned that someone calling themselves Pete Kaplana knows how to type.

  • This is a sad, tragic story no matter how a person looks at it.

    I wish there was a silver lining in “making an example of” somebody who lost control and tried to kill or grievously injure two people … but I don’t believe that will happen. When people get so worked up by road ( or any other kind of ) rage, they stop thinking critically. Still, it sounds like this guy was a ticking time-bomb, and it’s good that he’s no longer on the road. I do hope he’s not able to practice medicine in the future, given (1) his lack of concern for his fellow humans — “first, do no harm” — and (2) his complete and utter lack of remorse. It sounds like the community will be safer for the next five years.

  • Krinderhagen

    attempted murder with using a vehicle

    With aditional hate crimes againts bicyclist

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