Tag Archives: motorist fatality

Bad Drivers and friendsofcalholman.com

Looking North
Looking North

(motorist) Cal Holman was killed in a horrific traffic collision in 2007 involving very high speeds and alleged street racing. Going on 5 years later a lot has and continues to happen, the two other drivers, Van Brakel and Aronica, have eventually plead guilty to certain crimes, Van Brakel going to prison for manslaughter. Aronica received probation, and subsequently  requested it be reduced, but that apparently was denied.

The site friendsofcalholman.com is doing, and has done an excellent job of making court documents available; such as the plea agreements. Van Brakel’s 5 year sentence was reduced to below 3 years actual  both by the 1 day for every 7 served (that’s normal; it where the “85%” figure comes from); but also apparently because of  “over 2 years credit because he was out on bail while the criminal hearings were going on“. How does that work? Being out on bail somehow counts as the same as being incarcerated? [see suggestion in comment below that this may have been erroneously calculated] This is criminal case CR2008-031157  (minutes) (which i could only find by searching Maricopa County Superior directly) — and here is Van Brakel’s (who is Party 001) 9/16/2011 sentencing minute “5 year(s) from 09/16/2011; Presentence Incarceration Credit: 487 day(s); Presumptive”. Note that this is “non-dangerous” manslaughter — sick joke. p.s. the way sentencing math works apparently is: 85% (assuming he got the most time off) of 5 years is 1551 days minus the 487 leaves 1064 (just under 3 years).

Van Brakel’s pre-sentence credit of 487 days was due to him being incarcerated immediately (i guess) after his initial sentencing in 2010.

Here is Aronica’s 5/18/2010 sentencing minute of probation; pleading guilty to two counts of endangerment which is, like Van Brakel’s manslaughter, designated as a “non-dangerous” crime.

On a larger scope, they have exposed these two men’s driving history; again something we rarely get to see. According to friendsofcalholman the two,

Van Brakel was driving an AMG Mercedes, after hitting Cal Holman his car continued 75 feet past the intersection. Van Brakel hit first on the passenger side. He did not sustain any injuries in the crash…  Since 2004 there have been 7 tickets for various moving violations. Driving 55 in a 35 zone, 67 in a 40 zone, and failing to yield in a cross walk are a sample of his driving record… Van Brakel has several previous driving violations. One ticket in 2004, was for doing 120 miles per hour in a 75 miles per hour zone. [link]

and the other:

Aronica’s Mustang flipped on impact and landed in the ditch on the side of Scottsdale … Aronica was injured with a broken arm and his passenger had minor cuts…. Since 2002 Aronica has had 13 citations. On December 3rd, less than four weeks prior to the accident where he hit and killed Cal Holman, he was cited for doing 88 miles per hour in a 60 miles per hour zone. This was in Texas while he was traveling to Arizona… Other citations include speeding. In Virginia speeding 84 in a 65 zone, in Florida traveling 20-29 miles per hour over the posted speed, again in Virginia speeding 79 in a 65 zone, in Maryland he had four speeding violations, and in Michigan he has 3 violations for speeding including a careless driving and a 78 in a 55 zone. [link]

This really makes me wonder how such repeated dangerous driving behavior can be tolerated — why weren’t their licenses suspended or revoked before they killed somebody? Traffic collisions, even after a marked decline, continue to be a leading cause of death for Americans. Who’s minding the store?

Another Ray Road Wreck in Ahwatukee

Westbound, single-vehicle, presumably one or more fatalities occurred Sept 24, 2011 early morning hours. The vehicle was apparently going way too fast, lost control and smashed into some trees in the median. I didn’t see any skids. The palm tree got decapitated, and a smaller tree was snapped off (you can see the original trees in the google maps streetview, below). The picture barely shows the twisted wreckage. The cops were keeping people way way way away. To the extent one wonders what was trying to be hidden? I was told I “can’t” take a picture. Weird.

google maps view of the vicinity; E. Ray Road about mid-way between 33rd and 34th St.

News Report

Press coverage was brief; e.g. az rep piece that appears to have been drawn from a police statement:

One woman was killed early Saturday morning after her car crashed into a palm tree, Phoenix police said. The crash occurred just before 2 a.m. Saturday near E. Ray Road and 33rd Street, said Phoenix police spokesman Tommy Thompson. The victim, 28-year-old Nicole Johnson, was driving at high speeds when she entered the center median and collided with the tree, Thompson said. She was taken to a local hospital where she died as a result of her injuries, he said. Police said Johnson was the only occupant in the single-vehicle collision, and it is unknown at this time if impairment was a factor.

The KPHO piece is very similar, but mentions the model of vehicle was 2007 Mitubishi Eclipse.

 

The Walls Continue to Keep Tumbling Down

This area is the scene of many wall-knockings-down. There were two I know of in broad daylight within this past year. Here is a pic of one in the east 3200 block from March 2011. Less than a month before that, another careless driver knocked down a wall exactly 2 blocks west of here, that time at 34th Street.

These are the result of extreme negligence, and it’s only by happenstance that no one gets killed. The broad sidewalk and shoulder attracts all manner of pedestrians, joggers, dog walkers and bicyclists.

I haven’t seen the Phoenix Police Department doing any speed enforcement here in ages. Years. Don’t they love us?

… update: on Sept 30, there was a motorcycle unit monitoring speed at 32nd Street and Ray at ~ 7:30 AM (which, by the way, is when traffic is pretty heavy, and it seems to me, less likely to be speeding.

Horrific Crash kills 4 Motorcyclists

It was reported on 8/27/2011 that Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery will retry Michael Jakscht. The first trial ended with a hung-jury mistrial.
There’s a new trial date set for June 6, 2012

The driver of a heavy commercial dump truck piled into a group of motorcyclists who were stopped at a red light; reportedly he was distracted.

Phoenix Public Safety Manager Jack Harris described the scene “I have never seen such a horrific accident involving so many motorcycles,”

The crash 3/25/2010 at Carefree Highway and 27th way, Phoenix, initially killed 3, a fourth died a few days later. Several were seriously injured, including a Phoenix Fire Captain in critical condition.

Today the Arizona Republic is reporting in a 3/27/2010 story that the driver has a string of infractions, many of which sound like technical/equipment-related, and several of them were dismissed. However, the driver has an outstanding citation for failure to control about two weeks ago in Scottsdale, related to an (apparently minor) collision. These cases pop up on a search of the Arizona Supreme Court case lookup. But strangely, the reporter seems to be unaware of additional actions in Maricopa Justice Court, including one just dated just a couple of days before the huge crash. (search on Michael Jakscht)

The investigation is still ongoing, but with no hints of impairment the likely outcome, barring a surprise, will be a traffic ticket and no criminal charges.

The Surprise

Driver in fatal Phoenix motorcycle crash booked on 4 manslaughter counts, 4/06/2010 & Bond for driver in fatal motorcycle crash set at $1 million, 4/07/2010, AZ Republic.

Phoenix police arrested Jakscht on suspicion of driving under the influence of methamphetamine. Continue reading Horrific Crash kills 4 Motorcyclists

Update on Van Brakel’s manslaughter sentence

There is an update to the who-is-at-fault-in-a-left-turn-collision story from 2007 where former state representative Cal Holman was killed while making a left turn at an intersection and was struck by two motorists who were criminally-speeding, and appeared to be racing.

One motorist, Travis Aronica, plead to endangerment and got probabtion.

The other motorist, Robert Van Brakel, was found guilty of manslaughter and received a five year sentence (which seems light to me, i thought the presumptive for manslaughter is 10.5 years?). Van Brakel (who i presume, is currently imprisoned?) won a review of his sentence by a different judge, claiming improprieties by the sentencing judge. He is scheduled to be re-sentenced “from scratch” by a different judge; because of re-sentencing rules it is extremely unlikely he would draw more than the original 5 years. This is currently scheduled for 8/12/2011.

As Laurie Roberts put it in her July 27, 2011 column “One of the racers gets probation. The other gets five years in prison. Really, that’s what they got… Both men had lousy driving records and both were charged with manslaughter.”

You can also read about the case at friendsofcalholman.com , but be careful because reading that is what got Judge Ryan “in trouble”.

There a newer update at bad-drivers-and-friendsofcalholman-com — Van Brakel was released somehow in 2014.

 

Are Cars Dangerous?

Superhuman-sized objects moving at superhuman speeds are dangerous. Inherently. But who bears this danger? Motorist liability insurance is one supposed motivator; in theory motorists are supposed to bear the cost of the risks they are inflicting on others, but has many limitations (see e.g. The Disneyland Model). In reality this risk-spreading ends up socializing the costs of driving — paid for by others, subsidized, also called an externality. Thus we get more driving, because it is artificially cheap, and more traffic death and destruction.

It is worth pointing out to nervous cyclists that the large majority of traffic death and destruction is done by drivers of automobiles to other motorists (see, e.g. the chart here). This is to be expected, of course, since the large majority of traffic is motoring.

Here are a couple of  recent, local incidents… out of control “accidents” all —

Girl critically injured, was standing on the sidewalk, May 6, 2011: Deette Lynn Perry, 54, was arrested Friday after she was discharged from the hospital, where she had been admitted following the May 6 incident, Sgt. Steve Martos of the Phoenix Police Department said. Perry was in a 2004 Nissan Altima near Thomas Road and 23rd Avenue when she drove onto the sidewalk and struck a 17-year-old girl, Martos said. Police suspect Perry was impaired by drugs, Martos said. The girl suffered a fractured pelvis and severe head injuries, Martos said.

Another:

Tourist killed at Phoenix intersection The Arizona Republic, Glen Creno – Aug. 19, 2010

An Australian tourist crossing a Phoenix street was killed late Tuesday when a sport-utility vehicle slammed into him, authorities said Wednesday…The SUV was moving so fast the victim was dismembered by the impact. Witnesses told police the vehicle apparently ran a red light…Ramzy Khalil, 29, of New South Wales, Continue reading Are Cars Dangerous?

Christmas Eve ’07 crash trial, verdict: guilty

This has been a long and arduous journey legal journey (continuing on as of 2014 still dealing with pcr motions. And I see a number of pro per motions in Oct 2016).  The human and societal costs are staggering.

For starters, one victim, a motorist, dead. A number of injured motorists. The suspect, locked up since the crash on December 24, 2007.

Christopher Lee Smith, 32 years old, stands accused of DUI and manslaughter in a wrong-way, head-on collision on Pecos Road near 14th Street in Phoenix, AZ.

According to the Ahwatukee Foothills news story; “At the time of the crash, Smith was on probation for a previous misdemeanor DUI…” Continue reading Christmas Eve ’07 crash trial, verdict: guilty

Who is at fault in a left-turn collision?

A high profile collision involving a school bus turning left at a signal, still under investigation — the news article doesn’t let on who the police believe is responsible for the collision that killed two motorists. The collision occurred in Phoenix at Union Hills Drive, and 12th Street. The speed of the car was reportedly excessive. The bus was turning left, and the car was straight-through; this is a signalized intersection; the news story doesn’t give any indication of the status of the signal. Continue reading Who is at fault in a left-turn collision?

Negligent driver who killed 5 gets 1-year sentence

At this stage, with the investigation into Allen Johnson’s death still pending — there is understandably a lot of conjecture regarding what charges may be brought, or not brought, as the case may be.

I’ve seen this movie before, and the outcome is (almost) always the same — there are only two things that (reliably) bring criminal charges. They are DUI and leaving the scene.

If the exception proves the rule, and I think it does, take a deep breath and read the results of this quintuple homicide. This case gives one answer to the question: exactly what can a negligent driver do (besides the two aforementioned things) to get indicted for murder?

Laurie Roberts did a great job of bringing this story to light in her column (alternately see Laurie’s blog and entry on the same subject and the aftermath). A news story ran in the East Valley Tribune.

The synopsis is, in case the links to those stories disappear: Robert Logan Myers III plead guilty to five counts of Neg Hom stemming from a collision where he was speeding and ran a red light colliding with a left-turner. In the deal where he got 1 year in jail (the nominal sentence would be 5 time 2.5 years), work release for 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, payment of restitution of about $451,000, 4 years of probation. No mention of his driver’s license — of course how would he get back and forth from jail every day without one?!

The outcome of this, albeit highly unusual prosection, makes me wonder if pursuing criminal charges, heretofore what I considered the “holy grail” of holding someone responsible is the way to go. There must be a better way. ??