Motorist Pleads to Manslaughter in Cyclist Death on Maricopa Road

Michael Gray (Michael Gordon Gray), 43, died Sunday April 12, 2009 when a suspected impaired driver killed him at 3PM traveling along Maricopa Road nearby the access road to the Koli Equestrian Center. GRIC (Gila River Indian Community) police say they suspect the motorist may have been under the influence.

Here is near where the collision occurred. Maricopa Road is a fast (posted 50MPH) two-lane rural highway — one narrow lane in each direction, there is a shoulder stripe and perhaps a foot or so of irregular asphalt and lots of gravel Continue reading “Motorist Pleads to Manslaughter in Cyclist Death on Maricopa Road”

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”

Another hit-and-run; this time Mesa

A cyclist was seriously injured by a hit-and-run driver in Mesa in the early-evening timeframe. Monday Aug 24, 2009.  Police arrested Benito Gil-Mendoza, 31,  on suspicion of aggravated assault and hit-and-run.

The azcentral story says the collision was 6:30p. Sunset that day in Phoenix is 7:03p. No mention of lights was made in either of the news stories.

How will this one play out? After all, three hours is a long time. The suspect will likely deny he was drunk at the time.

Continue reading “Another hit-and-run; this time Mesa”

Phoenix Hit-and-runs disturbingly similar

There has been a third fatal hit-and-run in Phoenix, the third within two months — one in June, one in July and one (so far) in August.

Just after midnight this past Saturday,  52 year old cyclist Charles Waldrop was killed by a hit and run driver who witnesses say was driving at a high rate of speed and swerving. Police say an anonymous tip lead to the apprehension and arrest of  23 y.o. Timothy Kissida after he traded (via the “Cash for Clunkers” program) a light blue 1992 BMW 325i w/damage consistent with hit-and-run.  He was booked into the Maricopa County jail and charged with leaving the scene of a fatal collision and tampering with evidence. (KPHO, abc15, azcentral) (CAzBike blog). According to case minutes from 04/08/2010 “The parties anticipate that this matter will resolve prior to Trial.”. Kissida was ultimately sentenced to 10.5 years in prison.

This is disturbingly similar to another incident just 4 weeks ago; also in Phoenix, also in the early morning hours of Saturday, also hit-and-run. In that case, though, police apprehended and was arrested someone soon after the collision. See South Phoenix Hit-and-run for details on that incident.

There was a third nighttime hit-and-run fatality in Phoenix back in June, see Driver confesses to hit-and-run killing

As a note on media coverage; something I normally have complaints about, I have to give credit where it is due — The azcentral.com (and abc15.com carried the same quotes), sourced to police spokesman Sgt. Tommy Thompson was unambiguous: “The cyclist, 52, was riding home from work and was in full compliance with the bicycle laws. He was riding with a bike light and a rear flashing light in the bike lane.” In the June fatality, police said “Police say that Thompson was riding his bike legally”.

Recap of the Criminal Cases

Index to the three, with outcomes, all drivers were caught and were subsequently convicted of various crimes, though the outcome varied quite a bit:

  • June incident: driver worked a plea for simple hit-and-run; very brief sentence. Presumably because there was apparently no impairment.
  • July incident: driver went to a full trial — found guilty of neg hom among other crimes. Was sentenced to 6 year PLUS a consecutive 3.5 years for the hit-and-run (VERY unusual) — this seems to be his “punishment” for going to trial vs. working a plea deal.
  • August incident: driver plead to manslaughter and got 10.5 years. due to plea deal, the hit-and-run he also plead to netted no incarceration.

 

 

2009 AZ Cyclist Fatality Grid

Drunken driver Sentenced in Cop’s Death

Salvador Vivas-Diaz was sentenced to the maximum of 16 years in prison after being found guilty of manslaughter after driving drunk and hitting Phoenix PD Officer Shane Figueroa head-on. The officer was responding to a call at the time.

Traffic collisions, not, say, guns, are the leading cause of line-of-duty deaths of police officers. See: More Police Killed by Traffic than Guns.

Actual time served

perhaps it is time to rethink the notion of who is more dangerous

The story Statistics prove Hilton is getting a raw deal  shows the seamy underbelly of American penal system. Because convicted car-criminals aren’t considered dangerous, they usually end up serving absurdly short amount of time — even for a serious offense like driving without a license while on probation for DUI! Hilton eventually served the full 23 days — but we are told that the “normal” amount of time actually served for similarly situated (but non-celebrity) individuals is 4 days. With FOUR TIMES the number of folks being killed on the highways as by “old fashioned” murderers (roughly 40,000 versus 10,000 per year in the US) perhaps it is time to rethink the notion of who is more dangerous.

The Los Angeles Times analysed two million jail releases and identified 1,500 cases since July 2002 that involved defendants arrested for drink driving and then sentenced to jail after violating their probation by driving without a licence.
Around 60 per cent left jail after four days…

Continue reading “Actual time served”