A Los Angeles doctor, charged with causing severe injuries to two cyclists in a road rage encounter, has been sentenced to five years in prison.
Christopher Thompson, 60, deliberately hit his brakes, causing the bicyclists to hit the back of his Infiniti sedan on July 4, 2008, prosecutors told Los Angeles County Superior Court.
AdvertisementOne cyclist, Ron Peterson, was flung face-first into the rear window of Thompson's red Infiniti, breaking his front teeth and nose and cutting his face. The other cyclist, Christian Stoehr, was thrown off and landed on the sidewalk, suffering a separated shoulder.
The cyclists said the furious doctor honked loudly from behind and passed by dangerously close as they moved to ride single file before he pulled in front and braked hard.
Ron Peterson told the judge that he was permanently scarred.
The case highlighted tensions along Mandeville Canyon Road, a winding five-mile residential street that has become a popular route for cyclists.
The doctor claimed that he and other Mandeville Canyon residents were upset that some cyclists rode dangerously and acted disrespectfully toward residents.
On the day of the crash too, as he was driving down the road on his way to work, several cyclists swore at him and flipped him off as he called on them to ride single file. He said he stopped his car to take a photo to identify the riders and never intended to hurt anyone, Jack Leonard wrote, reporting for Los Angeles Times.
The crash drew intense interest from cyclists nationwide. More than 270 cyclists wrote letters and e-mails urging a long prison sentence, but the judge ignored them.
Thompson, who worked at Beverly Hospital in Montebello, had been convicted in November of mayhem, assault with a deadly weapon - his car - and other serious charges.
Jurors also found him guilty of reckless driving in an earlier incident in which prosecutors said he tried to hurt two other cyclists. He faced a maximum sentence of 10 years.
While the prosecution sought an eight-year term, Thompson's attorney argued for probation.
The doctor offered tearful apologies before the sentencing. He said, "The physical and mental scars are my fault."
He has recurring nightmares about one cyclist smashing through his car window, Thompson added.
As he wiped away tears, his father, a retired surgeon, told the court that his son was influential in improving trauma care throughout the county and was truly sorry. But Judge Scott T. Millington didn't seem to be convinced.
He cited the police recordings of the day of the accident wherein the doctor sounds haughty and indifferent to the plight of the injured. A police officer told jurors that Thompson said shortly after the crash that he slammed on his brakes in front of the riders to "teach them a lesson."
The judge called on cyclists and drivers to respect each other and said local government should add more lanes specifically assigned to cyclists to improve their safety.
"Government must become aware of the dangerous conditions existing on our city streets and the threat of injury to cyclists," Millington told a courtroom packed with cyclists as well as friends and supporters of Thompson at the Airport Courthouse.
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