Thompson: Guilty

IMG_0769Deputy District Attorney Mary Stone speaking with Stoehr, Crosby, Watson and Peterson (l-r).

Dr. Christopher Thomas Thompson has been found guilty of six felonies and one misdemeanor as a result of two different incidents with cyclists. Jurors in the case returned unanimous verdicts for the seven crimes after less than six hours of deliberation.

While not so speedy as to be hasty, the deliberation was short enough to convey how convincing was the prosecution’s case.

I hadn’t expected to be called to court today for the verdict; though I thought the logic of the prosecution’s case was convincing enough to assuage any and all doubts, my concern for a hung jury never hung on logic.

The atmosphere in the court was charged. Thompson didn’t walk in until moments before the jury filed in. This was the only time during the course of the trial that cyclists outnumbered Thompson supporters. Every seat in the gallery was filled and nearly a dozen people stood in the aisle behind the last row of seats.

I was less than eight feet from Thompson as the verdicts were read. Following the first count, reckless driving causing specified injury, his head slumped and he looked down at the table in front of him. He lifted his head and looked out as the second verdict, for battery with serious bodily injury was read. This time his head dropped down so that his chin was nearly touching his chest. He did not lift it for the rest of the reading of the verdicts.

I’ve been asked on a number of occasions if Thompson showed any emotion, any remorse. For the most part, he has acted aloof and calm. Unperturbed would be another great way to describe his mood before today. I’ve not seen anything anyone would call remorse or concern for the cyclists.

To the degree that I was concerned about the likelihood of a hung jury, some of this was attributable to comments I heard made in the courtroom by non-cyclists. I heard one woman, who I supposed was a neighbor of Thompson’s and a likely member of the Upper Mandeville Canyon homeowner’s association, say that Patrick Early, the first cyclist reported to have had an altercation with Thompson, “wasn’t one of those primadonnas.”

On Friday a woman seated directly behind me said, “It’s a bike rider conspiracy.” I wasn’t sure whom she was speaking about until later when an attorney following the case said she pointed at me and a cyclist next to me when she made the statement. I’m still not sure what the conspiracy was about or what led her to believe I and an airline pilot had committed felonies of our own, but rational thought wasn’t always in evidence in the gallery.

I’d overheard Thompson’s wife make some snarky—if not downright nasty—comments about cyclists in the gallery, so when I saw her in tears as we exited court, I’ll be honest and say I felt no empathy for her situation.

That Thompson was remanded to custody on the spot was really the one development I didn’t see coming. I assumed that Thompson would remain free on bail until at least sentencing if not until an appeal. Despite a nine-page motion from Peter Swarth, the judge revoked bail, but not before Deputy District Attorney Mary Stone told the court, “In terms of public safety, there isn’t a cyclist in Los Angeles who would be comfortable if he were out on the streets.”

In a court session full of surprises, the compassion Stone showed for cyclists was clearly stronger than any propriety required for professional reasons.

Once downstairs at the press conference, Stone spoke briefly and then each of the riders involved in the charges against Thompson. As Peterson was speaking, the wind blew in the unmistakable aroma of marijuana. Someone had left court only to smoke up upon hitting the parking lot. It was a shocking reminder of Thompson’s flagrant disregard for the law.

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  1. jack

    what makes you think it was Thompson (in custody) or one of his supporters, who was smoking pot in the parking lot — as opposed to a celebrating cyclist?

  2. Pingback: Its all a little fuzzy… «

  3. Stephen

    What’s the connection between someone — let’s be frank, more likely a cyclist than an Upper Mandeville resident — smoking pot and Thompson’s conviction?

  4. wcoastbo

    A victory for cyclists! Still I feel bad for the doctor, he’s going to jail. His life is ruined and his talents as a physician will be wasted. This did not have to happen and could have been avoided if his attitude was different. The fact that there was a pattern of previous incidents was a huge factor and if he wasn’t taken off the road others could have been hurt and possibly killed. He is after all another human firstly. If only he would have treated cyclists as human beings instead of objects. I wonder if he is capable of that… maybe in the months years to come. He as time to think about it and not much to do sitting in a cell.

    I feel relieved that the jury did the right thing morally and legally, a no brainer. How this will translate into changing the attitudes of motorists? I don’t know if it will. At least I know a jury in car happy LA will convict on the evidence of the case, not their bias as motorists.

  5. Jared

    I’m pretty sure the Marijuana comment is being misunderstood. We were on the back steps of a courthouse, and somebody very close by was smoking pot. I don’t think Padraig was implying it was someone from the Thompson case who was smoking, I think he saw that blatant disregard for the law and was reminded of Dr. Thompson disregard for the law and welfare of others.

    Regardless, it was a great outcome and a surprisingly quick decision by the jury. I’m not sure what this changes in the big picture of things but at least it feels good to see the doctor behind bars.

  6. mike

    This has been a very interesting trial and I am glad someone has been providing some indepth coverage, so thank you. I was hit by a car this summer and am just getting my life back to “normal” so this really hit home. The driver I was hit by was not given a ticket because she took full blame and showed great remorse according to the Police officer at the scene. I have mixed feelings about the true meaning of justice in this incident and have had a feeling that cycling accidents differ from auto accidents of a similar nature. The outcome of this incident shows me that there is fairplay and there is a sense of fair play. I am glad for cyclists in general for this outcome. I am sure anyone in the vicinity of that road in LA will treat cyclists differently from now on. The next challenge like the victims is to get back on the bike and enjoy the road, the agony and the friends. Thanks for dedication.

  7. Larry T.

    Los Angeles has sent a message to homicidal cycling hater which is good for us all but the real menace is the average Joe/Jane Sixpack piloting his/her Chevrolet Subdivision, steering with their knees while juggling cell phone, GPS, giant “Fourbucks” latte, etc. These bozos kill or maim more cyclists than a-hole doctors ever will. I hope interest in this case might transfer to serious pestering of federal and state legislature as well as law enforcement about enforcing current laws on “distracted driving” and pushing for a federal mandate similar to the seatbelt campaign — loss of federal highway funds to states that don’t enact and ENFORCE these laws. When the Governator’s wife gets away with it, you know the law’s not taken seriously.

  8. DC in Maine

    The doctor will have a blast getting accustomed to jail. All his anger will be swept aside as he enters the showers. Good riddance asshole.

  9. trev

    Too bad we can’t get this good of coverage in Canada. This past summer our former Attorney General (I think the US equivalent would be the head State prosecutioner) hit a dragged a cyclist intentioanlly. and killed him. This is still in court.

    Knowing that there are people out there that have this kind of anger towards us is quite frightening when you really think about it. Makes me want to persue Kayaking more and more…

    1. Author

      Trev: It’s tough to find a freelancer in the right place who can devote so much time to a trial. I read about the incident you mentioned and it turned my stomach. What an awful shame.

      One of the tragedies of my coverage of this trial is that as I was writing my stories, I was well aware that there were/are plenty of cases deserving of attention that no one is writing about. I don’t feel good about it at all. There’s another case involving a death here in Los Angeles and that case deserves much more attention than it has gotten.

  10. Tim

    I am disgusted with the comments on this board. For all intensive purpose the people on this board ( including the reporter ) would hang Dr Thompson on the spot.
    This case was not “cut and dry” If you followed the case and listened to the facts you would see that. Dr. Thompson AND the cyclist hate eachother. Both admit to screaming and swearing. Dr. Thompson said he stopped infront of them to take their picture and the cyclist said he slammed on his brakes. Unfortunately the doctor called 911 and in the excitement said he slammed on the brakes, BUT the facts in the case showed not a single skid mark was made and the distance between the cyclist and the doctor’s stopped car was almost 100ft. There was no intent to harm, just a stupid, angry, emotional event. It is truely sad to see his life completely torn apart. ( Even the Judge shrugged his shoulder and raised his eyebrows at the vertict– he was shocked) ( Yes I was there ) Say what you want, but the Cyclist also have a lot of fault in this case, but the Media, this board and the ignorant public are relishing in the vertict.

    1. Author

      Tim: I’m sorry to hear you are so disgusted. I could spend my time refuting each of your points, such as the fact that your suggestion that I’d engage in vigilante justice is outrageous, but there is really only one truth to be considered: We live in a civilized society and even if I swear at someone dozens of times, that doesn’t give them the right to attack me physically. Thompson was convicted of six felonies by a jury of his peers and is headed to prison so he can do this to no one else. Had he been able to contain his temper, he’d still be saving lives. The choice was entirely his.

  11. Adam

    It is “for all intents and purposes,” I don’t know what an “intensive purpose” would be, but I imagine it having a scrunched brow. On more important matters, imagine if it had been your child or mother on the bike, what might your reaction have been in that case? I agree with Padraig that the Doctor is not a monster, but I am glad that I live in a society where my peers have a sense of empathy great enough to ask themselves, ‘what if that had been someone that I care about on the bike…’.

  12. blade

    The only mistake the two cyclists made was failing to eviscerate their assailant on the spot. Failing to exercise your right to meet deadly attack with deadly defense is weak and selfish. This ass clown doctor will be out hitting another cyclist in less than a decade and I’ll blame these two cyclists for letting him live.

    1. Author

      Blade: I have approved your comment on Red Kite Prayer, but I I think your comment is off-base and over the line. I’m disappointed as your comment doesn’t serve civilized society or rational discourse. However, I don’t censor comments.

      I would have expected a more articulate and reasoned commentary from someone with your qualifications.

      Blade is Dr. Geoff Alpert of the University of South Carolina’s department of criminology and criminal justice.

  13. Ring Of Fire

    In response to Tim on 11/7, and grammatical issues aside, you’re out of line as to suggest that the media, posters to this board and the ignorant public are relishing in the verdict. There are no winners here. The cyclists will have permanent reminders – physical and mental – of the incident and Thompson will have to give up a good portion of his life in state prison, all for something that was completely unnecessary and totally avoidable. All the F bombs in the world do not warrant that kind (or any kind) of violence. I too was in the courtroom when the verdict was announced and disagree with your characterization of the judge’s actions during the reading of the verdict. In fact, in ruling on the revocation of bail post verdict said that the crimes he had just been convicted of were serious and that he presented a threat to the public safety.

    But, will this event be a lesson to us all to be a little more sensitive to the other people on this planet with us, a little more tolerant of those who do things a little differently and a little more patient with things we don’t understand? We can only hope so and each do our part individually to check ourselves every now and then, not get caught up on all the little things that interfere with our daily lives and do what we can to lead a more peaceful life.

  14. Alex Torres

    Facts are facts. He did not slam on the bakes? Come on. No skid marks? Of course, how would those be possible with ABS brakes? But of course, that must have been discussed in rich details during the trial, so…

    I find it rather amazing that someone can honestly believe that 2 bikers would hit a car in such a nasty way, risking their lives, just to make a point or osmehitng like that. Of course the doc acted stupidly, and although I´m not inside his mind, I´m sure he´d rather have acted differently. He got away the first time only to make it worse and hurt 2 guys.

    He´s a doctor, and emergency room doctor! He above anyone else should have known better! Now, his own actions ruined his own life, a grown up and responsible man living in society was judged by his peers and found guilty in civilized and fair ways, that´s just it. Take a deeper breath and go on with your life next time when you´re about to make something stupid, that´s the lesson that remains (and hopefully reaches a broather audience too).

    It´s not a victory for cyclists, it´s just a sad case of disrespect and disregard for people. Everyone lost, but everyone wins too: good exemple must be set, and in this case, justice was done. The message is not as much “respect cyclists” as it is “respect life”. And stop complaining, I just wish we had this sort of justice here where I live…

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