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.

  • Carter

    It’s hard to celebrate what has been an overwhelmingly upsetting series of events, but I think that justice has been served.

  • KateNonymous

    Well, he earned it. I agree, though, that the issue needs to be addressed more fully. People (regardless of preferred form of transportation) need to learn that we all share the world. And we also need to consider that our actions can harm others, and that there can be consequences for us as a result.

  • Velocentric

    Thanks for covering this but I believe that….

    Thomson hit his brakes not “breaks”
    Ron Peterson’s face went into the rear window not “rearview mirror”

  • Thanks Velocentric. I actually posted before I was done editing because I thought that the breaking nature of the news was of such interest to the community that I should get it up as quickly as possible. Now that I’m done adding text, I’m going back and finishing the edit.

  • As a cyclist, I extend an open hand to all drivers. I will respect your right to the road and in return I expect the same. If I am traveling at the posted speed limit, don’t expect me to move over so you can speed. If you’re going to speed, go ahead and pass me safely by entering the oncoming lane. Respect!

  • Dudeonabike Ross Hirsch

    +1000 Alex. Here here.

    I wouldn’t read to much into the fact that “Millington says he didn’t consider” the 270+ letters written by cyclists and others in support of a strong sentence. That’s actually better for the sentencing on appeal–he can’t be scrutinized for considering improper facts or questionable “evidence.”

  • Kevin Stallworth

    This sentence is an outrage, and an unscionable sop to the mob mentality that gripped these proceedings. In fact, the threat to public safety on Mandeville Canyon Blvd comes from bicyclists. As for the ones involved in this particular incident, I would like to see them apologize to Dr. Thompson and then pay to fix his car.

  • Sam

    I agree with Alex as well. Said everything that needs to be said.

  • Sam

    Dr. Thompson (according to LAPD): “I passed them up and stopped in front of them to teach them a lesson…”

    I applaud the courts for teaching Dr. Thompson a lesson with a 5 year sentence.

  • KateNonymous

    Kevin, the guy in the office next to me often talks too loud. Based on your statement, I assume that because he annoys me, I am entitled to hit him in the face with a baseball bat.

  • I second Katenonymous and Alex: let’s all respect the laws of the road and remember that the laws of the road are not: I AM ALWAYS IN THE RIGHT, GET OUTTA MY WAY.

  • Erik G.

    And when does the bloody doctor get the possibility of parole?

    P.S. Like “brake”, it is “Hear, Hear” not “Here, here”

  • PETER

    The fact that people like Kevin Stallworth are defending this man’s actions despite all the evidence suggests people see this as “cars v. cyclists” rather than the reality: One man, exhibiting a pattern of reckless and violent behavior toward vulnerable humans.

    In this case, the two cyclists did nothing wrong. They did not run stop signs and were doing the speed limit, as they should. The incident, as with the two other incidents reported, was entirely initiated and perpetrated by the driver, Dr. Thompson. And yet it’s “cyclists” that are at fault? To say that because the victims deserved violence simply because there were “cyclists” is a huge red flag to another incident waiting to happen.

    The reality is, all drivers need to know the law (cyclists are vehicles that are entitled to a lane) and be careful around vulnerable humans. If not, their license plates could be recorded on cell phones and their internet posts suggesting a wanton disregard for safety (Stallworth) can be used used against them in court. If a pattern can be shown…FIVE YEARS.

  • I wonder how much shorter his sentence would have been had he done a hit and run and not called 911?

  • Luke Roebuck

    Peter got it spot on correct! Bicyclists doing the speed limit have same rights as other vehicles. A peleton of Cyclicsts should be respected just like you would a truck… even more, especially since there are many more potential witnesses with cell phone cameras!

  • Dinglish

    A note to the good doctor: Please request to reserve a bed in you cell as I am sure that Mr. Kevin Stallworth will be joining you soon. A note to Mr Kevin Stallworth; It is no longer an academic question for discussion. The court has ruled… Guilty on five counts! If you don’t like the laws as written, please move to a country that suits you better.

  • Cycling is a great sport. I’ve ridden thousands of miles myself. But converting participation in a sport into eligibility to participate in months of orchestrated, public, published, group hate against a 60 yr. old doctor is as perverted and disgusting as it is cowardly. One of the bloggers, named Tinker, said that Doc should lose his thumbs and then his feet. I wonder how many more sheeple in the anti-Thompson hate group are as sick and disturbed as Tinker. I’ve known Dr. Thompson for over 30 years. He does not deserve this libelous cruelty nor this outrageous sentence in the name of the morally superior wake- up call/message the judge wants to send out to car drivers. There are really two messages sent here today. One comes in the form of the shameless appeasement by the two Hollywood politicians, both judge and lady prosecutor, who appear to be trying to win the votes of the large, herd-like bicycle lobby for their next elections at the expense of the life of a very fine man. The other message is that if you live in L.A., be prepared to be insulted, intimidated, and given the finger , spit on, whatever, by those who have done such a world- class job of cultivating and politicizing their victimhood. And don’t you dare do anything about it!
    And to Dinglish… that is the dumbest comment I’ve ever read in print, anywhere, anytime. Take the needle out of your arm and tell your mom you’re moving out of her basement… today ! You go girl.

  • Kevin Stallworth

    Dinglish:
    Learn to read. I was talking about the sentence, not the verdict. The sentence is excessive and counter to the interests of justice. By the way, since you like predicting bad things for strangers, I predict that you will commit capital murder and be executed by lethal injection. Just a hunch, but I contribute it to this debate in the same spirit as your vicious, ad hominem attack on me.

    KateNonymous:
    I wasn’t complaining that cyclists on Mandeville Canyon are annoying (although they are); I was complaining that they behave in an UNSAFE manner, risking their lives and the lives of their betters.

  • Kevin Stallworth

    Peter–

    The person exhibiting a wanton disregard for safety is YOU. It is YOUR comments that might come back to haunt you in court if you fail to recognize that cyclists are frequently RECKLESS, SELF-RIGHTEOUS, AND CONTEMPTUOUS OF THE LAWS OF THE ROAD. And it further weakens your position when you threaten me, in an attempt to stifle free speech. That sort of brute intimidation has no place on a comment board. You are a hate monger, sir.

  • Pants Yabbies

    Please, don’t feed the trolls…

  • Kevin Stallworth

    Peter–

    And who said these cyclists “deserved” to be treated violently. Not me, not remotely, and it is another example of your hate-mongering that you would suggest it. I said the sentence was an outrage; it is. I said that the safety issue on Mandeville (day after day–the norm rarther than the exception) is cyclists; it is. I said I “WOULD LIKE TO SEE”–would LIKE it–if these particular cyclists would apologize to the doctor and pay to fix his car; I would. Because he will be languishing in prison, a victim of lynch mob justice, when these two are living their lives, cycling down Mandeville, and doing things I won’t suggest here because surely you would just twist them, as is your wont.

  • The Trickster

    Now now Kev, lets get a little something right here.

    In this incident the cyclists were not breaking a single law. They were riding two abreast (which is legal under Californian state law) at 30mph (the speed limit for the area) when the dear doctor chose to overtake them dangerously at a speed beyond the listed speed limit and then chose to cut back into the lane dangerously and slam on his brakes in front of them.

    So, based on those facts as outlined in the case against Dr Thompson for which he was convicted, do you still think they should apologise to the dear doctor and pay for their car?

    Also, I’m interested to see how you could conclude based on those facts for which he was convicted how those particular cyclists were riding in an unsafe manner, risking their lives or the ‘lives of their betters’, whoever someone ‘better’ happens to be. Actually, while you’re there, please define who ‘their betters’ are and please state why they happen to be ‘their betters’.

    Also, how will that come back to haunt Peter? He was merely stating the facts of this individual case which is what we’re discussing, not the actions of other cyclists who may or may not be breaking the law at a particular time.

  • Peter says: “In this case, the two cyclists did nothing wrong.” I say, B.S.
    First of all, there were three cyclists riding together. One just cruised on down the road, no problem. Another fell over after looking back once he was well passed the doc’s car. Only one crashed into the car and that was 5 or 6 seconds after the car had already come to a stop and was on the side of the road. Doesn’t that sound a little suspicious? How did two bikes manage to skate by with no problems while one came smashing into the back of the car well after it had stopped?
    I ask the question, was this whole deal staged in the interest of the greater, more noble cause of the cyclists’ agenda of “change” ?
    What else is wrong with this picture? NO, they were not going the speed limit, well below it, while blocking the road. Did they pull over when Doc tapped his horn? No, they gave him the finger and told him to go f-ck himself. This is now reported as “exchanging words.” If that doesn’t seem wrong to you, Peter, please come down to Texas so I can give you the finger on a public street and tell you to go f-ck yourself to your face. After which, I’ll assume that you will report that I did nothing wrong either. Paul

  • The Trickster

    So Kev (May I call you Kev?), I take it that if someone came up to you with broken a glass bottle and slashed your nose nearly cutting it off that you would apologise to them for breaking their bottle and then would buy them another bottle of beer?

  • Hey, if anyone from the bicycle lobby that one of the trolls talked about is reading this: guys, if you’ve really got that kind of clout, could you get us a few more lanes? Throwing one jackass doctor in the clink is a good start, but, really, we need you to squeeze a few more infrastructure dollars out of the local government.

  • “As for the ones involved in this particular incident, I would like to see them apologize to Dr. Thompson and then pay to fix his car.”

    I’d also like to see evidence that Bigfoot exists and that Elvis is alive and well. Seeing how we’re both living in fantasy land, I wonder which of us will get his wish first?

  • epicurus

    Kevin, with all respect I cannot see how Paul is in any way threatening you. You come across as very defensive and angry toward reasonable comments.

    On another non threatening note, you do disregard to the Constitution by hiding behind the 1st amendment. Of course you are entitled to hold this position, as are bigots, racists and extremists; but I’m sure a man of your intelligence can understand how phrases such as “risking their lives and the lives of their betters” is one that holds no place in constructive discourse.

    Please explain how the sentence is an ‘outrage’ given the facts presented. I welcome any examples, with sustainable evidence, of unsafe practices by cyclists on Mandeville Canyon. Without this I’m afraid you may be barking up the wrong tree and wasting everyone’s time.

    Regards.

  • The Trickster

    Paulie. Nice conspiracy theory there mate.

    Deconstruction time (a.k.a get your facts right):

    1. Two cyclists hit Thompsons car, both in the rear. One went through the rear windscreen, the second rolled over the car and into the street. As for the third, he had already been passed before they even encountered Thompson.

    2. Thompson said to a police officer at the scene that “I stopped in front of them, I wanted to teach them a lesson” which to me would indicate that your 5-6 seconds is a load of horse dung.

    3. No bikes ‘skated’ by or just passed by for that matter.

    4. No, we didn’t need to. Thompson brought this on himself. There are easier ways of going and getting attention than having your nose half severed off.

    5. So you’re trying to tell me that down a hill a bike cannot achieve 30mph? For starters I’ve got a nice little thing on my bike computer that shows the max I’ve ever achieved is 55 mph which is certainly a lot higher than a measly 30mph. I personally can do 30mph on the flat, although I can’t hold it for long and most slight descents 30mph is nothing to achieve.

    6. They claimed under oath they moved single file, however the dear doctor claims they didn’t. They did give him the finger and exchange ‘pleasantries’ however after they moved single file and he shouted out the window “ride single file”.

    7. If it was me I’d just laugh at you and simply go ‘ok, whatever’ and walk off. That’s what grownups generally do.

    So yeah, basically, get your facts right. After all, there is a number of transcripts of what went on at the trial around the web.

  • bb

    So place your bets, for when he gets free for being such a good prisoner. Loosing his medical License and going against his oath, will hurt much worse I am sure.

    I say 2.3 years.

  • Dr. Thompson never said, “… I wanted to teach them a lesson.” The cop got that wrong. On that point, does it not seem odd that all of the statements taken at the scene by the investigating officer were recorded on tape with the exception of Dr. Thompson’s? His comments were written down in a little note book. Why was that?

  • Dr. Thompson (or “the victim” according to his supporters) made a stupid decision that galvanized a community. It has cost him his reputation, what money he had, and his freedom. I am sad that it took injuring two people and a the high cost of punishing Dr. Thompson to bring us all together to fight for our rights to the roadway.

    The sad reality is that changes in policy and road design to favor bikes in this City are paid for in blood and treasure. I hate the “war” metaphor that our culture employs so liberally, but it certainly feels like a war sometimes between the interests of civil life and automobile speed and access.

    Two bike riders got their bodies mangled, and this Thompson fellow has ruined his career and his fortunes.

  • Yes, but he is going to lose his driver’s license for life. And unless he’s going to get chauffeured everywhere, at some point he will have to – ride a bicycle.

  • Dinglish

    “at some point he will have to – ride a bicycle”. The good doctor will learn both the dangers and the pleasures that we on two wheels experience. Now won’t that be irony.

  • Rambo

    Regarding Kevin Stallworths comments:

    Please read this bill of rights endorsed by multiple Neighborhood Councils throughout the City of Los Angeles and I suggest a 13th right be added:

    Add #13: Due to continuing threats and the hatred of cyclists by motorists, cyclists in Los Angeles shall be given special favorable consideration when applying for concealed weapons permits.

    CYCLISTS’ BILL OF RIGHTS

    WHEREAS, cyclists have the right to ride the streets of our communities and this right is formally articulated in the California Vehicle Code; and

    WHEREAS, cyclists are considered to be the “indicator species” of a healthy community; and

    WHEREAS, cyclists are both environmental and traffic congestion solutions; and

    WHEREAS, cyclists are, first and foremost, people – with all of the rights and privileges that come from being members of this great society; and

    NOW, THEREFORE, WE THE CYCLING COMMUNITY, do hereby claim the following rights:

    1) Cyclists have the right to travel safely and free of fear.

    2) Cyclists have the right to equal access to our public streets and to sufficient and significant road space.

    3) Cyclists have the right to the full support of educated law enforcement.

    4) 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.

    5) Cyclists have the right to routine accommodations in all roadway projects and improvements.

    6) Cyclists have the right to urban and roadway planning, development and design that enable and support safe cycling.

    7) Cyclists have the right to traffic signals, signage and maintenance standards that enable and support safe cycling.

    8) Cyclists have the right to be actively engaged as a constituent group in the organization and administration of our communities.

    9) Cyclists have the right to full access for themselves and their bicycles on all mass transit with no limitations.

    10) Cyclists have the right to end-of-trip amenities that include safe and secure opportunities to park their bicycles.

    11) Cyclists have the right to be secure in their persons and property, and be free from unreasonable search and seizure, as guaranteed by the 4th Amendment.

    12) Cyclists have the right to peaceably assemble in the public space, as guaranteed by the 1st Amendment.

    And further, we claim and assert these rights by taking to the streets and riding our bicycles, all in an expression of our inalienable right to ride!

  • The Trickster

    Again facts Paulie, facts.

    I think that one of the only thing you’d find that was verbally recorded at the scene was Dr Thompson’s 911 call where he could be heard firstly telling the riders to remove their bikes from the road and then saying that they weren’t seriously injured, but they would say otherwise. All of this while one was still picking himself and what remained of his nose from the rear windscreen of the dear doctors car.

    Anyway, if you’re so certain you’re right that everything there was recorded, provide me with links to those recordings and/or transcripts, then I (and I’d say the wider readers here) are all ears.

    Also, I’m quite sure that Mr Swarth would have brought it up if there was a recording saying one way or the other. Don’t forget that the officer was also under oath.

    Somehow I’ve got an idea that you won’t provide a shread of evidence to the contrary.

  • Kevin, you say that your problem is with the sentence not the verdict, right? But then you say you want the cyclists to apologize? So that would lead us all to believe you weren’t happy with either. It’s one thing to say that the sentence is overblown, but all of your arguments are about whether or not he is guilty, which has to do with the verdict. So, which is it?

  • mcbstrd

    An emergency room doctor who deliberately injures people? In the same league as a pyromaniac firefighter, a bent cop, a philandering divorce lawyer, a pedofile day care worker. You get the point. Scum. Pondlife. The facts of this case seem straightforward enough and the legal system has done its business. Case over.

  • Tom Brown

    Will he be allowed to drive a car when he is released?

  • @Tom Brown, of course he’ll get his license back! How else is he supposed to get around!?

    Dr. Thompson, if you’re reading this after you’ve been released (Happy 2015!) make sure to check the footstraps on your hoverboard! The last thing you’ll want to do at your age is take a fall in the middle of a barrel roll.

  • I read on Biking in LA that the Doc’s driver’s license was permanently revoked as part of the sentence. Damien, can you confirm that?

  • slapmijits

    I’ve never been to Mandeville Canyon, in fact I haven’t been back to California for years so I am ignorant of the cycling rules in that area.
    I strongly disagree with the Doctor’s actions; I am in no way condoning what he did. I’m curious, though, does this road have a marked bicycle lane? Are there set rules that the cyclists are supposed to follow?
    I’m asking because I drive through Ahwatukee (Arizona) to get to work and I see dozens of cyclists on the way. Most of them obey traffic rules and stay in their designated lanes but every now and then I come across a few who feel it’s perfectly acceptable to ride three or four abreast in the middle of the road. I’ve never swerved in front of them or slammed on my brakes but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been upset at their incredibly rude behavior. It’s not OK for me to drive in the bike lane and it’s not ok for them to ride in the motor vehicle lane.
    Are there cycling rules in place in Mandeville Canyon and were the injured cyclists following those rules?

  • Brent

    slapmijits@

    These questions have been thoroughly discussed elsewhere. A synopsis: Mandeville Canyon has no bicycling lanes. It’s a fairly narrow residential street with a 30 MPH speed limit. The cyclists were traveling near the speed limit, at about 29 MPH according to data retrieved from their GPS units.

    California law has few special rules about bicycle operation on roads (see CVC 21202). It instead generally expects cyclists to act under the same rules as motorists. When cyclists are traveling at a significantly slower speed than traffic, the law specifies that they ride “as close as practicable” to the right. When traveling at the speed of traffic, the law allows cyclists to ride anywhere in a travel lane, even if a bicycle lane is present.

  • slapmijits

    Thank you for that clarification, Brent. It looks like the situation there is nothing like what I encounter on my drive to work and that the cyclists were obeying the law.
    I think the big lesson we can all take from this is that we can only be responsible for our own actions. Whether you are driving, skating or walking, keep your temper in check. There is nothing to be gained by yelling or making rude gestures at complete strangers. You never know who is in the vehicle next to you. That person may have a stressful life and a short fuse. They may have had a huge argument with their spouse right before getting in the car. They may have just been fired or reprimanded, or they may just be a total jerk. No matter how right you may have been, it won’t make you any less injured or dead when the jerk snaps.

  • Tom Brown

    @slapmijits
    Re: Driving in a bike line
    I don’t know the law in Arizona and the bike community doesn’t agree 100% on the best solution, but in California drivers should turn from the bike lane instead of turning across it.
    http://www.sfbike.org/?bikelane_right_turns

  • DJwheels

    @danceralamode Yes, Thompson’s driver’s license was permanently revoked.

  • Erik G.

    Does he go to Folsom or the Q?

  • DJwheels

    I regard to those 270 emails there were not “considered” by Judge Millington. It wasn’t just emails from the cycling community, but also from supporters of Dr. Thompson. He denied both the prosecution and defense’s request to consider numerous letters in support of their respective sides as an official part of the record. He still read many of the letters, and I think his comments about this case being a “wake-up call” for the community were prompted by the obvious tension and frustration contained in them.

  • BoyleHeightser

    I’m sad for the doc, but jail time for his crime is certainly in order.

    As for the judge’s remark that this should serve as a wake-up call to all… I’m a bicycle commuter—I get my wake-up call every single morning on the road as motorists cut me off, yell and honk at me, and otherwise threaten my safety in their efforts to claim the road for themselves (despite the fact that our property taxes pay for street maintenance and that their driving is, therefore, disproportionate to their road use).

    I must also say that I differ with those who call for everybody’s uncritical observance of traffic laws. These laws were designed to protect society from the danger posed by cars. It is crucial that motorists stop at red lights and stop signs in order to minimize their threat to people.

    But I don’t think that cyclists or pedestrians should have to stop at, say, stop signs. Cyclists don’t pose anywhere near the same threat to society that cars do and the cost of stopping is tremendously higher to a person on a bicycle than to somebody sitting in a car. If only bicycles existed on the road and cars had never been invented, the laws would be extremely different. Slowing down for pedestrians at various crossing points would suffice without incurring bicyclists that car-centric traffic laws do. It is simply unjust that bicyclists should have to pay the cost of obeying rules meant to keep cars from killing people. The laws should be revised and made to respond to the vastly different transport modes that cars and bicycles represent.

  • Shredword

    I don’t understand the support for the doc. He may be a swell fellow, but he used his vehicle as a weapon, people were severely injured, and someone could have been killed. Whether he is your pal or not, he must face the consequences. I would be surprised if he ends up doing more than two years total, which is about the amount of time that the guy who killed my dad in a similar way (although by accident) ended up doing. It seems to that me he is getting off pretty easy. He should be thankful and face his punishment like a big boy. He will have plenty of time think about how civilized people should handle responsibilities like operating a motor vehicle. He is the victim only of his own reckless behavior. Just because someone flips you off, calls you names, makes you late, inconveniences you, makes faces at you, or hurts your feelings, you don’t have the right to use violence. The doc should have learned this on the playground in grade school. Maybe, he can use the jail time to grow up a little.

  • Roadblock

    Facts are facts. The cyclists were travelling at The posted speed limit of 30mph as proven by their gps training logs measured by highly accurate and sophisticated equipment. Thompson had to break the law twice to pass the cyclists. First he had to break the speed limit then he had to cross the double yellow line.

    It’s always a mystery when you hear about cases in which someone who seemingly had it all – OJ, Phil Spector etc etc and manage to get so wrapped up in their world of priviledge that they ruin their own lives….

    Thompson had a mansion in beverly hills a pharma Corp and now look what he did with that…. As far as him getting good treatment because of “service to the community” that doesnt really wash either… he was getting paid quite nicely as witnessed by his assets and lifestyle. His service was repaid. It’s not like the guy was volunteering in warzones with doctor without borders…

    He’ll do two years and then he’ll be out. He’ll be aight.

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