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Brentwood doctor pleads not guilty to injuring cyclists

Biker_2 A Brentwood physician who allegedly injured two cyclists last summer by slamming on his car brakes in front of them on Mandeville Canyon Road pleaded not guilty today. Prosecutor Mary Stone alleges that Christopher Thomas Thompson hit his brakes after a confrontation with cyclists who were riding down the narrow road.

The resulting impact flung one cyclist through the car’s rear window and the other to the pavement. Thompson, 59, allegedly told police during the July 4 incident that he stopped his red Infinity sedan in front of the cyclists to “teach them a lesson.” The physician complained that cyclists frequently traveled the residential street in Brentwood and that he was “tired of them,” Los Angeles police Officer Robert Rodriguez testified during a preliminary hearing last month.

Thompson is charged with one felony count of reckless driving causing injury and two felony counts of battery with serious injury, two counts of causing “great bodily injury” to the cyclists while attempting to commit a felony and one count of mayhem for other severe injuries to one of the cyclists. He also faces one count of misdemeanor reckless driving causing injury in an incident with another cyclist on the same road in March.

Thompson and his attorney are expected to move to dismiss the case next month; a trial has been set for March 6.

-- Joanna Lin

Photo: Special to the Times

 
Comments () | Archives (238)

Here's the big problem I have here.

If some idiot decides to pull in front of me and slam on the brakes while I'm driving, and I can't stop in time and run into him, as long as he is fully in my lane before he does it, I automatically get tickets for failure to yield right of way, failure to maintain safe distance, and for running into him.

Why are the cyclists different?

And since I know the answer is because their equipment doesn't facilitate that, should they not be allowed to travel that speed...and if they do, shouldn't they receive the aforementioned tickets?

I am shocked and saddened at the anger I see on this thread. A man hurt two men, intentionally, who were in NO POSITION to endanger him.

Is there ANY legal situation in which it is okay to severly injure people who are exercising or commuting (not these two, but many cyclists) in a way you don't like?

I commute on my bike, reducing pollution and gridlock, yet I'm constantly afraid to meet someone like this doctor who thinks just because he is protected by a metal-case (his car) that he can do anything he likes to my unprotected body. When I ride I don't hurt anyone, yet I've been run off the road, I've had car doors opened in my face -intentionally, I've had things thrown at me, I've been cursed out-- and I haven't been in LA two years yet.

There is no excuse for hurting another person who wasn't trying to hurt you -first-. Ever.

While legally correct that the party who hits another vehicle from behind is at fault, the circumstances are a little different when the car in front is alleged to have intentionally slammed on the breaks (for all you car-folks you might think of this in terms of insurance scams). This is for the courts to decide, but from the looks of it, and the portion of the doctor's statement, he intentionally slammed on the breaks and therefore should receive the legal punishment he deserves. I suppose that during all of this he could try to sue the cyclists for rear-ending him; he may have the legal grounds to do so.

To answer the physics question posed earlier: how fast must the cyclists have been going to go through the rear window? The answer from personal experience and the experience of too many of my unlucky peers is not very fast, maybe 20 mph, which on this road is more than achievable.

I obviously cannot condone the behavior of all cyclists, because there are reckless ones, just as there are reckless drivers. However for all of those folks who have never cycled the streets of LA, a part of any given cyclist's attitude comes from the fear that at any moment a reckless/careless/malicious, well how about just unfriendly, driver could spill him/her out onto the asphalt or worse. Turning the other cheek to aggressive, absent-minded or otherwise occupied drivers isn't that easy when the odds of serious injurfy from a crash are so high.

To the posters siding with the doctor, read this article:

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-bikers12-2008dec12,0,147065.story

It gives more details of this accident, detailing how he cut right in front of them and then laid his breaks on. It also describes a previous, similar incident involving the good doctor.

If car A cuts off another car, B, and slams on the brakes, car A is at fault. It is not the same thing as car B, which happens to be following car A too closely, hitting car A when it slams on the breaks.

This doctor should be up on attempted murder charges, and anyone supporting him -- such as posters here -- ought to be charged with giving support to terrorism, because that's what it is.

Anyone who thinks by causing injury to someone else is "teaching them a lesson" is a malicious son of a gun.

James Sullivan: As a kid, my brother was hit by a car doing 15mph and he went thru the windshield, so to answer your question.. it doesn't take much force to break thru a windshield. They aren't bullet proof or anything.

I'm stunned at the number of people trying to justify intimidation and assault with a deadly weapon (i.e., a multi-ton, unyielding car). This being L.A., I probably shouldn't be surprised -- pedestrians are second-class citizens -- but accept it... this guy is going to be a whole lot lighter in his bank account (and should be!).

The only place I even remotely understand being irritated with cyclists is on PCH. Sunset and the canyons see a lot of biker traffic, sure, but bikers are not wrapped in IMPENETRABLE METAL BUBBLES. And what sort of crack is the poster on who mentioned women pushing strollers being at risk from... cyclists?!?!? Yeah, those cell phone gabbing housewives in their German tanks are FAR less dangerous than the middle-aged guy on a rickety Gary Fisher!

In many countries, the simple rules of the road work out so that the larger vehicle yields to the smaller one. So therefore the cyclist yields to the pedestrian and car yields to the cyclist. We would be served well if we followed that example.

I'm a cyclist, and all this talk of pretentiousness and being a road-hog disturbs me. I'm on a BICYCLE, you are in a CAR. YOU WIN! Every time! If I hit you, or you hit me, you will always win. You know what else? You can go faster than me. What a concept!?! Waiting a few extra seconds does not hinder your ability to get there faster than me. What's your hurry? You'll still get there first. Second, it is not in my interest to hug the curb on Sunset, or on most streets in L.A., as most of the right lane along that street is broken and covered with potholes. So excuse me for protecting myself and my bicycle from harm by staying out of the gutter.

I don't ride because I want to seem cool. I do it because it is cheaper than driving, good for exercise, and I enjoy it. It doesn't contribute to the continual blackening of our air, and it doesn't take up much space. Cycling gear, though it may look strange to someone who isn't a rider, is specially designed, functional clothing designed to minimize wind resistance and provide skin protection. Like a leather jumpsuit for a motorcyclist, the strange skin-tight, padded gear cyclists wear has a purpose. I don't wear it to look cool, or even like it all that much, but cycling gear helps keep me safe.

The only reason a cyclist needs for occupying a lane of traffic is that many motorists don't respect our safety when we keep to the right. They pass us within inches at top speed, and hurry to cross in front of us at right turns (which has already caused me one major accident and injury.) FIVE SECONDS is all it takes to save a life or avoid hurting someone. FIVE STINKING SECONDS!!! Are all motorists so vain and self-important that they can't wait five seconds for a cyclist to pass before making a turn? Of course not. It is only ever the narcissistic jerks who think their time is more important than my life.

You motorists who even *think* about blaming this incident on the cyclists disgust me. It shows a level of arrogant stupidity that only Los Angeles could love. I don't care how far back a cyclist is, if a vehicle stops suddenly, an accident is likely to occur. Bicyclists can't stop as fast as a car--we don't have power-brakes, stupid! We depend on motorists to be predictable. They are always bigger, faster, and more dangerous to us than we are to them.

How dare any of you side with an arrogant, deranged and clearly misguided man who had every intention of causing great harm to two people who committed no crimes and were no danger to anyone in a car. He's a scumbag, and it seems unlikely that he even realizes that what he did was cold, malicious, and cruel. Those of you who support him are no better.

"You'd rather go to an inferior doctor than go to a better doctor because he made a point to some bikers. Well I'm smart and I would want to go to the best doctor possible regardless of their personal life. Would you price shop or dig into a doctor's personal life for brain surgery?"

That's brilliant. He wanted to maim or kill people because they annoyed him. Go ahead and get on his table and let him cut into you. Maybe he will decide that he doesn't like something you do. Whoops! My bad. Known risk. He's dead. Serves him right for wearing those funny bowling shoes.

By the way, some of you may want to look at Constitutional law. There is a VERY strong argument that bicycles have a greater right to use of the roadways than motor vehicles.

Wilma F. wrote: "My husband Fred and I have been friends with the doctor and his family for years now and I can tell you that if he allegedly pulled in front of the cyclists and slammed on his brakes he had good reason to do so. He's a good man. "

Isn't this just like saying that the convicted child cannibal that lived next door to you for that last 20 years, “He was such a nice quiet man”?

James Sullivan (January 15, 2009 at 11:02 AM) and Dee (January 15, 2009 at 11:21 AM):

You both are MORONS. The road belongs to all. You need to share it. It doesn't matter if you don't like cyclists or whether you are late bring your entitled brats to school or whether you are tired of driving a narrow lane and there is not enough room. It doesn't matter if you get flipped off on the road or cursed at by a cyclist. Simply wait until it is safe for all to proceed because under no circumstances do you have any legal or moral grounds to purposely injure another person just for making your life a little inconvenient.

You are both retarded idiots, and you should have your drivers' licenses taken away. And if you have minor children, your parental rights should be revoked and they should be taken away from you and raised by someone who loves them and will teach them right values so that our world does not continue to be filled up with selfish asinine adults like yourselves.

Sound like the bikers were not leaving enough space between vehicles if they could not stop before the car, since bikes can stop very quickly compared to cars.

Change this story a little bit.

Let's assume that the two cyclists were cars, and that they were driving recklessly. What would have happened if that doctor purposely ran them off the road, or did something that totaled both cars and injured the two drivers. What would have happened? I'll tell you one thing, there sure as hell wouldn't have been any sympathy for the doctor. I hope this scumbag of that calls himself a 'doctor' gets a harsh sentence.

Has anyone stopped to think about how fast both parties had to be going on this supposed residential street in order for a bit of braking to cause one of the cyclists to burst through the cars rear windshield?

Sounds like Darwin trying to take out two birds with one stone.

Thank you Gary (January 19, 2009 3:21 am) for a well written comment to all those arrogant and self absorbed people out there who think we cyclist should get off the road so they can get their kids to school faster. It only shows what a life, any life, is worth in our society. Wow, move over everyone, as I'm getting in MY car and driving on MY road! Sounds a little like a hierarchy instead of a democracy.

The people defending the bicyclists are idiots. If those two greenie morons were incapable of controlling their bikes, that's their fault. When two automobiles are involved in a rear-end collision, the one that did the ass-ending is always at fault...unless the car in front was backing up and hit the other one. Same thing should apply here.

Bicyclists attempt to claim the high moral ground with their "saving the planet!1!!" swill, but they are just self-absorbed morons who like to stroke their own fragile egos.

Hmmm, wonder if the doc gets locked up, if some inmate will 'teach him a lesson' because of they are 'tired of him'

"Far too often I see pretentious idiots wearing tights who think they are Lance Armstrong riding bicycles recklessly."

So, let's take it out on ALL cyclists, right?

"How fast does a bicyclist have to be moving to generate enough force to ram their head through the rear windshield of a car.? The fact of the matter is that these bicyclists were riding way too fast and were a hazard to everybody on that road."

As long as they were traveling within the speed limit, they are no more a hazard than a teenager on his cell phone or a pissed off doctor on her way home from a long day at work.

"By their own admission when the doctor told them to ride single-file (AS REQUIRED BY LAW) they hurled profanities at him and made threats."

State law mandates that bicyclists and motorcyclists may travel no more than TWO ABREAST on any road. Check the law before you wax poetic. Also, consider this: a person in a car who is capable (and apparently willing) to seriously injure or kill you to make their point is threatening you with a deadly weapon. What would you do: a) continue to be assaulted and keep your mouth shut, endangering your life or b) continue to be assaulted and let your frustrations out, fighting fire with fire...? Even the most level-headed and reasonable people will get defensive when their lives are on the line.

"I'll bet they were chasing the car and thought they could catch him at the bottom of the hill."

It's common that cyclists will try to catch a car to get a physical description and license plate, so they can report to the police a moving violation. It's also common for cars to run red lights, drive erratically, and swear at cyclists that they "don't like" because they're "in the way" while legally traveling on the only recognized place for them to travel. It IS illegal for anyone, doing anything, to travel on a sidewalk faster than 10mph.

So, before you go off on your uneducated rampage and start taking out your frustrations on undeserving cyclists, take five seconds to breathe and think.

Do you rear end a car because another, unrelated car cut you off? I bet you don't.

Do you crash into a car because a different car's driver yelled profanities at you? I bet you don't.

Maybe you should treat all vehicle drivers with equal respect.

To all the "rear ending is clearly the rear ender's fault", I have proof you are all wrong. I was riding my bike to work a few months back. Car A pulls off the curb right in front of me, and immediately applied the brakes to make a left turn. I hit him from behind as Car A did not yield to my right of way. I was awarded thousands of dollars from Car A's insurance company for my a) medical bills b) new bike c) pain and suffering. Now Car A pays twice his insurance premium, and I have a shiny new bike. If you'd like, I'll post the police report on Flickr.

I can see where this confusion comes from though. The driver of Car A was completely dumbfounded when I insisted he was at fault. So much so, that he refused to hand over his identification and insurance information. I was forced to call him in as a hit and run. Didn't go over too well with the police officer filing the report. Silly Car A, should have given me the cash I asked for at the scene.

In the UK, for insurance purposes, the person behind in a crash is always held to be at fault, as he/she didn't leave enough of a gap. Even though it takes two vehicles to crash in to each other, both have it in their power to avoid an accident.

In the end, this doctor was travelling at a certain speed and then stopped (albeit abruptly). If the bikes couldn't brake in time, then maybe they weren't keeping enough distance from his car? I'm not condoning what he did, but if the cyclists had kept a distance, his intimidation tactics would have failed.

OK - basic reading comprehension skills are important, people.

As has been stated MANY times, the doctor PASSED the cyclists then SLAMMED on the brakes, causing the accident.

This is not an issue of safe following distance, this was attempted murder on the part of the driver.

To all that side with the doctor keep this in mind. Driving is a privlidge. Thats why you take a test and get a licence. Biking is a right. Hence anyone can ride without any test or licence. No one is so important that they cant be "incconvenienced" for a few seconds to safely pass a cyclist. Get over your self!

The driver passed the cyclists, then hit the brakes. This has nothing to do with safe following distance.

Also, the roads are paid for by taxpayers, not motorists. Gas taxes do not even begin to account for the costs of road maintenance, nice try. And by that measure, cyclists which put negligible wear on the roads compared to motorists pay more than their fair share.

I can't wait to see this guy taken apart in prison. You can explain away his many recorded incidents of violence towards cyclists all you want, but in the end all you need to know is that he's a doctor who refused to help the injured.

 
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