Wednesday, December 15, 2010


This article in Velonews talks about how the Eagle County (Colorado) District Attorney is trying to prevent the victim of a horrible car on bicycle hit and run incident from testifying at a hearing addressing a proposed plea bargain with the driver.

For those unfamiliar with the case, here is what supposedly happened:

Mercedes driving wealth fund manager hits and seriously injures doctor who was riding his bike. Driver then does a bunch of things that make it clear he knew he hit someone, yet later denies knowing he hit anyone. And then blames it on sleep apnea. And then blames it on "new car smell" (no joke). Doctor suffers serious head and spinal injuries (view photos at above link at your own risk).

After charging the driver with a felony and two misdemeanors, District Attorney Mark Hurlburt agreed to drop the felony charge in exchange for guilty pleas to the misdemeanors. Hulbert also observed that “felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in Mr. Erzinger’s profession.”

Only the driver, Martin Erzinger, knows what his thought process was that day, and what really happened. I do not blame him, nor his attorney, for mounting a vigorous legal defense. That is how the system works.

Without knowing the admissible evidence involved in the case, I also can't comment on whether the plea agreement was a good idea. Prosecutors are faced with tough choices every day, and the often ignorant and fickle public has been known to hate plea deals, but they also hate it when prosecutors go "all the way" and lose due to lack of evidence or a boneheaded jury.

If D.A. Hurlburt weighed the strengths and weaknesses of the state's case and made an informed decision based on the risks of losing, then I would have no problem with the plea deal, as distasteful as it may be. The problem is, he did not. He instead admitted that the effect of a felony on Erzinger's record helped sway his decision.

What he was saying, of course, was that he is less inclined to charge a rich businessman with a felony when compared to a common criminal. The ignorance of this statement is mind boggling in light of the obvious fact that a felony makes virtually anyone unemployable in the minds of most employers, whether the employer is an investment bank or Burger King.

Maybe armed robbers in Vail should also not be charged with felonies because, you know, how will they support their families with that on their record? Or drug dealers. Or sexual predators.

I also find this excerpt from his bio to be quite offensive, given the fact that he is spending taxpayer money to deprive the victim of this crime the chance to speak at the plea deal hearing:

As an experienced prosecutor, Mark knows it is important not to simply secure convictions, but to seek justice. He makes victims a priority and is dedicated to providing victims a strong voice in the justice system.

This might be the most disturbing and embarrassing legal story I have read in a while.


Anonymous said...

You forgot to say that he did stop to call his Mercedes dealer because whenhe hit the cyclist it tore the side mirror of his car.

Ray Huang said...

Just sickens me.

Bart said...


Doesn't it sometimes matter to the insurance company whether they are paying out regarding a felony or not a felony? That is, maybe the perp's insurance company won't pay for vic's damages if perp is convicted of a felony?

ds said...

That issue was discussed in one of the subsequent articles about this case. Turns out it did not apply here, for reasons I forget.

Bart said...

OK I read some of the other articles and I didn't realize the driver was that wealthy - he could pay for years of the most expensive medical care out-of-pocket, so my insurance idea is off. This is case is one of those that "shocks the conscience."