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Doctor sentenced to 5 years in prison for assaulting bicyclists in Brentwood

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A doctor convicted of assaulting two bicyclists by slamming on his car brakes after a confrontation on a narrow Brentwood road was sentenced today to five years in prison.

Christopher Thompson, wearing dark blue jail scrubs, wept as he apologized to the injured cyclists shortly before he was sentenced.

"I would like to apologize deeply, profoundly from the bottom of my heart," he told them, his right hand cuffed to a court chair.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Scott T. Millington called the case a "wake-up call" to motorists and cyclists and urged local government to provide riders with more bike lanes. He said he believed that Thompson had shown a lack of remorse during the case and that the victims were particularly vulnerable while riding their bicycles.

The case against Thompson, 60, has drawn close scrutiny from bicycle riders around the country, many of whom viewed the outcome as a test of the justice system's commitment to protecting cyclists.

Millington said he did not take into account more than 270 e-mails and letters from cyclists that were filed with the court urging a tough sentence.

The July 4, 2008, crash also highlighted simmering tensions between cyclists and residents along Mandeville Canyon Road, the winding five-mile residential street where the crash took place.

One cyclist 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 slammed into the sidewalk and suffered a separated shoulder.

At his sentencing hearing at the county's airport branch court, Thompson cited the Bible in urging cyclists and residents of Mandeville Canyon to try to resolve their differences peacefully.

"If my incident shows anything it's that confrontation leads to an escalation of hostilities," Thompson said.

Thompson, a former emergency room physician who described the crash as a terrible accident, testified during his trial last year that he and other Mandeville Canyon residents were upset that some cyclists rode dangerously and acted disrespectfully toward residents and motorists along the street, a popular route for bike riders.

On the day of the crash, Thompson said he was driving down the road on his way to work when 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.

But the cyclists said the doctor was acting aggressively from the start. They said he honked loudly from behind them and passed by dangerously close as they moved to ride single file before he pulled in front and braked hard.

A police officer told jurors that shortly after the crash that Thompson said he slammed on his brakes in front of the riders to "teach them a lesson."

Prosecutors said Thompson had a history of run-ins with bike riders, including a similar episode four months before the crash when two cyclists told police that the doctor tried to run them off the road and braked suddenly in front of them. Neither of the riders was injured.

Jurors convicted Thompson in November of mayhem; assault with a deadly weapon, his car; battery with serious injury; and reckless driving causing injury.

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-- Jack Leonard at the L.A. County airport courthouse

Photo: Christopher Thompson weeps as a judge sentences him to five years in prison for assaulting two bicyclists by slamming on his car brakes after a confrontation on a narrow Brentwood road. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

 
Comments () | Archives (207)

I agree that the guy was wrong, but 5 years is insanity. If someone brakes too quickly on the highway and you ram into them, it's your fault. This is a judge succumbing to mob rule and it's stupid.
Society would have been much better served if the doctor was sentenced to five years of working for the uninsured.
No wonder our prisons are filled with too many people.

A 5 year sentence is a good start, but he also needs to have his drivers and medical licenses permanently revoked and anger management as part of the terms of his parole.

How unconscionable.

I'm glad justice has been served but I can't help but wonder...how do you honk softly as opposed to "honked loudly"?

As a repeat offender, he should've gotten a longer sentence, but five years isn't too bad. I hope he learns his lesson.

I hope that Dr Thomson has learned his lesson if not I am sure he will learn about vulnerability while in prison. This whole event has expended too much emotion energy to be good for either side. I am just grateful that the cyclist in this case where able to supply enough evidence that the local constables where unable to rationalize this unfortunate and illegal activity in their usual fashion to just an accident.

So attempted murder results in only 5 years sentence? Outrageous! Another example of the car-bias our culture has. Sad...

This is really bad. He shouldn't have done that to them but they also should be more considerate. I have almost hit them so many times coming around corners at the speed limit and they are 4 and 5 a brest going 5 miles an hour. It scares me to death, they don't deserve all this attention they are as much to blame as he is. They make mororists go 5 miles an hour, refusing to go single file. So here's a new rule to make they can't ride buddy system they should ride single file always avoiding this problem. It's really simple and considerate. The driver should never have done what he did but neither should theyAnd to take down a good man a doctor and throw him in jail for this, you should all be ashamed of yourselves, totally and completely. What he did was not civilized but what you did wasn't either.

This case is a "wake-up call". Bicyclists are not second-class citizens. Nor will they take their place on the back of the bus. The time has come to give them full and equal rights on the road. Bike lanes, bike infrastructure and enough space to ride safely and expediently on the roads. We need a "Bicyclists Civil Rights" act. We need to make it a crime to harass, threaten or willingly injure a bicyclist due to intolerance and hate.

Thank you Judge Millington, with this verdict the bicycle riders out on the road stand a bit of a chance at getting some protection. Just about every rider I know had their share of aggressive drivers. These riders in this case were lucky in that everything fell in place correctly and that there were no "problems" with them. So many of my friends are not so lucky and drivers, if they even manage to stop, are seldom charged with an infraction.

A good day for cycling advocates and for justice. I hope Mayor Villaraigosa hears the Judge's plea for more bike lanes and education. I doubt this case and verdict will change how people drive (road rage, distracted by cell phones, etc., entitlement driving), but I hope we can all attempt to be more human on the road, and see each other as human beings instead of "other." Let's all slow down and be safe, and give safety to those around us.

The thing that is the most revolting is the story made up by the doctor's attorney: that the doctor was only stopping to take a photograph. The attorney also produced an "expert" who said that there was enough time for the riders to stop. Nothing like blaming the crime on the victims. Why are attorneys allowed to tell lies for a living and get paid vast amounts of money for it? And the so-called experts! For a thousand dollars you can get a Phd. to swear in court that up is down, black is white and day is night. Thankfully the judge saw through all that bunk. See ya in five years, doc.

Sad for all involved

wow -- 5 years! that seems a lot but then his pattern of aggression and his clear intention to injure (apparently) would set a terrible precedent for other motorists if not given a stiff punishment. as a cyclist myself, LA drivers need every incentive possible to become more considerate of those who choose to get around on 2 wheels.

It's unfortunate that Mr. Thompson didn't express his remorse in the years prior to being sentenced. Just goes to show that people get sorry when the get caught.

serious crimes get short sentences and early parole/rlease and this warrants 5 years....way over the top!

Good...now if only they would do this to people who abuse animals.

But seriously... like there are not enough places for people to ride their bikes off of roads like this?!? That's all a driver needs to worry about ... another freakin' obstacle in the road because you know, people driving crazy, not obeying the signs and rules and running red lights is just not enough to deal with.

Los Angeles has a long way to go before it becomes a safe place for cyclists. Never before have I experienced such vitriol as when I rode my bike (respectfully) around the city. Drivers would cut me off, flip me off, and scream obscenities at me for no good reason. I hope this can be a wake up call to motorists to share the road.

Congratulations, and thanks to the district attorney's office for pursuing this with the enthusiasm this case deserved. I've read far too many accounts from other states that fail to file charges of any kind.

This sentence is outrageous and doesn't fit the crime. Real criminals have served less time for rape, child abuse and even manslaughter. Is the judge a cyclist?

ALL motorists need to take head: In the age of the cell phone camera, every one of your road rages gets captured. If you cause an accident, everyone you ever cut off will come out of the woodwork and send you to prison.

That's what happened here and, frankly, it may be deserved. You can kvetch about cyclists slowing us down or running stop signs but this comes down to dangerous behavior by a single motorist. THREE different incidents, all reported, all alike. If you think you could be sent away like this, by someone with a cell phone catching you at your worst, you're wrong.

5-years! He could have robed a liqueur store with a gun and got off with a hand slap. I know a car is dangerous weapon, but maybe free medical care to the homeless, counseling, anger management, picking up trash would have been a more productive sentence.

For assault with a deadly weapon the good doctor got what he deserved. But as a cyclist I say we are deluding ourselves if we think the two injured riders were merely innocent victims.
Tens of thousands of cyclists have and will continue to ride Mandeville Canyon. Most do not provoke resident motorists. Most are smart enough, courteous enough, to single up when cars approach. Only a minority try flippin' the bird at rude or ragin' drivers.
The judge's comments about "bike lanes" are irrelevant and dumb. There is no room for bike lanes on Mandeville-- no room for bike lanes on most LA streets. LA streets are made for People. What we choose to use on the street-- car or bike-- is irrelevant. By law we are equal.
Everybody: Share the Road.

too long for this crime..... the guy is already ruined for an instant bad decision that caused significant (but not super severe) harm to the riders..... 2 years would have been my call

Although the doc went to far these bikers need to show some respect to motorists. The bike lane is there for a reason, stay within it. I deal with these cocky Lance Armstrong wannabe's every day. They refuse to ride single file. How would they respond if drivers drove in the bike lane like they do. I live on the coast highway, there is many pedestrian crosswalks and they never slow down for people crossing the street. They nearly hit pedestrians all day and force them to stop in the middle of the highway. They never follow the laws of the rode, running stop signs and not signaling when making turns. If you ride your bike in the street you need to follow the rules. Have your tour de france conversations when you arrive at your destination.

 
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