Is the SF District Attorney’s Office biased against cyclists?

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Cyclists visit the intersection where cyclist Amelie Le Moullac (pictured on in a memorial on the post) was killed last year
Steven T. Jones

There’s been much discussion over the last year about whether police and prosecutors in San Francisco are biased against bicyclists. And while the San Francisco Police Department has admitted problems in their investigations of collisions that injure cyclists and pledged to do better (with mixed results), the District Attorney’s Office doesn’t seem have gotten the message.

The cyclist community was appalled last month when District Attorney George Gascon refused to follow SFPD recommendations and file criminal charges against the commercial truck driver who killed cyclist Amelie Le Moullac in August, a high-profile case that highlighted SFPD bias and triggered a series of hearings on the issue at City Hall.

Now, a San Francisco jury has voted overwhelmingly to acquit a cyclist who collided with a pedestrian last year, finding that the collision was clearly accidental and that the cyclist tried to avoid the victim who jaywalked to check the parking meter for her car and then abrupted reversed course and collided with the cyclist.

“The evidence in this case was clear: It was an accident, not a crime,” Deputy Public Defender Tammy Zhu said of her client, 20-year-old John Kewin, who faced up to a year in jail after the DA’s office charged him with reckless driving.

But the jury last week voted 11-1 to acquit Kewin, siding with witnesses who said he tried to avoid the collision over one witness (ironically, a cyclist) who testified that Kewin was riding too fast. So the DA’s office this week decided to drop the charges.

Public Defender’s Office spokesperson Tamara Barak Aparton told us charges should have never been filed in the case: “I don’t think it should have been, it was clearly an accident and not a crime.”

The DA’s Office has refused to file criminal charges against any of the four motorists who killed cyclists in San Francisco in the last year, even in cases where the drivers were making illegal turns across bike lanes and making no efforts to avoid the cyclists.

Does the District Attorney’s Office have a bias against bicyclists? We left messages with two different spokespeople from that office, and we’ll update this post with their replies if and when we hear back. 

Comments

the cyclist was already making the turn. Can you read?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2014 @ 5:54 am
Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2014 @ 6:09 am

about bikers once they start obeying the laws.....

Posted by bikers break laws on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 1:31 pm

They are overwhelmingly privileged affluent whites who think they are above the law

Fuck them.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 1:41 pm

Most motorists obey the law, it is a small number of jerks who violate the law.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 2:03 pm

and that is why prejudice against cyclists continues.

You can fix it by example

Posted by Guest on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 2:15 pm

The MTA studied bicycle traffic recently and 94% of cyclists were obeying the law during the period studied. I am sure cars speed more than 6% of the time.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 9:47 pm

that a minority of drivers don't necessarily set out to break laws or identify as scofflaws, but rather appear simply fall into a reflexive pattern of being "pushy" when encountering bicyclists with their larger vehicles.

Such anti-social behavior may be encouraged through the anti-bike attitude exhibited by prosecutors and police.

For instance, in addition to the brush described above, I recently experienced having a driver cut me off in a parking lot. While there was not the component of speed as above, I had made clear eye contact with the driver before they began their maneuver which was clearly depriving me of my right of way. While one could with extreme charity say the driver was confused, it appeared to me to simply be a case of them asserting their reptilian rights to do as they pleased since their vehicle massed more than mine.

We need police and prosecutors to make examples of drivers who threaten bicyclists with deadly weapons. We need to make clear to our fellow citizens that anecdotal indictments of bicyclists should not validate the anti-social behavior of a minority of motor vehicle drivers.

To that end, I ask: how is enforcement of the new state law mandating that car drivers allow three feet clearance to bicyclists in shared lanes coming along?

Have the SFPD issued a *single* ticket yet? Somehow I doubt it has been the priority it deserves to be, because I also feel myself being menaced by drivers in passing situations all the time despite the fact I am usually traveling at the speed limit and/or keeping to the rightmost possible lane position.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 3:16 pm

that it mostly due to the "fuck you" attitude that so many cyclist exhibit

It also doesn't help that cyclists are mostly affluent professional white males

Posted by Guest on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 3:29 pm

But I expect better from the DA

Posted by John Murphy on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 4:07 pm
Posted by Guest on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 4:18 pm

that you think cars, with far higher statistical deaths, are more deserving of your sympathy and understanding.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2014 @ 5:55 am

Motor vehicle driver hits a jaywalking pedestrian - and the SFPD cites the *pedestrian* - who is facing life-threatening injuries. Why is a jaywalker hit by a motor vehicle cited, but a jaywalker hit by a cyclist results in the cyclist being charged with reckless driving?

From SFist today...

In the first case, a 20-year-old motorcyclist on a 2008 Aprilia was heading south on Van Ness when he allegedly struck a 44-year-old man near Myrtle Street (that's the small alley next to the 1000 Van Ness movie theatre).

The pedestrian was taken to San Francisco General Hospital with life-threatening injuries, including a broken leg, a fractured pelvis and severe head trauma, SFPD spokesperson Officer Albie Esparza told SFist.

The motorcyclist complained of pain to his wrist, as a result of the collision, Esparza said.

As the "cause of the collision"—the pedestrian, Esparza emphasized, was not crossing at an intersection, and was "in the middle of the street,"—the injured pedestrian has been cited by SFPD for failing to be in a crosswalk.

Posted by John Murphy on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 4:09 pm
Posted by Guest on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 4:19 pm

Fat moving traffic. Read the vehicle code, it is not just a good idea, it is the law.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 4:56 pm

is a state highway with traffic typically at 30mph, then you you cannot reasonably whine if you get hit.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 5:08 pm

but rather what should be our priorities for enforcing the law?

By definition, most laws are not enforced.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 5:11 pm

The topic of this article was that this law was misinforced by the SFPD and misprosecuted by the DA and that the SFPD and DA should focus on enforcing the law in ways supported by San Francisco juries.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 5:22 pm

Those are set top-down by our most senior elected officials i.e the mayor and the DA.

You evidently elected the wrong guys if you do not like the outcome

Posted by Guest on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 5:35 pm

Juries serve as a judicial check on prosecutorial discretion and authority. If juries send the right messages, prosecutors pull back on bringing cases to trial it is as simple as that.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 7:19 pm

Two different juries can give two different results and send out two different messages

Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2014 @ 6:10 am

Are you suggesting that the judicial branch does not serve as a check on the legislative and executive branches simply because it proceeds in fits and starts?

Posted by marcos on Jun. 30, 2014 @ 9:04 am

I hope we have a strong candidate, Gascon is not up to the task.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 9:46 pm

Your problem is with the voters

Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2014 @ 6:11 am

No one is really impressed with Gascon, he just has name recognition. Any good candidate could beat him easily. I will definitely volunteer and donate if one runs this time. Gascon is a disgrace.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Jun. 29, 2014 @ 9:43 pm

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