In most of the United States, the general rule about harming people with automobiles goes like this: Stay at the scene, and if you’re sober, you probably won’t be looking at anything more substantial than a moving violation. Recent laws passed in Oregon, New York, and Delaware promise to hold motorists to a higher standard of care (if law enforcement employs the new tools), but one part of the country seems to be taking a step backward when it comes to condoning reckless driving.
Over in Vail, Colorado, the new rule seems to be that you don’t even have to stay at the scene, if you’re sufficiently rich and well-connected. Manage a billion dollar portfolio, and you can do whatever the hell you want with your car and get away with no felony charges.
Vail Daily reported last week that Martin Erzinger, a wealth manager for Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and local resident, will not face felony charges stemming from a July 3 collision in which he reportedly ran down New York City physician Steven Milo, causing severe spinal injuries, and drove away. Over Milo’s objections, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert won’t pursue anything stronger than a misdemeanor charge for the hit-and-run. The decision has little to do with justice or deterrence and much to do with money:
“Mr. Erzinger struck me, fled and left me for dead on the highway,” Milo wrote. “Neither his financial prominence nor my financial situation should be factors in your prosecution of this case.”
Hurlbert said Thursday that, in part, this case is about the money.
“The money has never been a priority for them. It is for us,” Hurlbert said. “Justice in this case includes restitution and the ability to pay it.”
Hurlbert said Erzinger is willing to take responsibility and pay restitution.
“Felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in Mr. Erzinger’s profession, and that entered into it,” Hurlbert said. “When you’re talking about restitution, you don’t want to take away his ability to pay.”
Blogger Felix Salmon says the decision amounts to Erzinger buying his way out of a felony charge. Over at Cyclelicious, Richard Masoner is calling for a Vail tourism boycott and points to other reactions around the web, including this petition to Hurlbert at Change.org.