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

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)

This is only one case of vehicle vs. cyclist. There are hundreds where someone takes their vehicle and utilizes it as weaponry. I only hope that the drunk teen that hit the cyclist on 12/1/09 in West Hollywood gets the same or similar time. He was riding single file, lights and reflectors, she was drunk, underage, and hit & ran. What a moral compass she lacks. He's hospitalized and forever damaged. She's free.

Stand up now, don't wait until it happens to you or a loved one. Bike lanes wouldn't help, educating her didn't help either or she wouldn't have been drinking.

Quite a sad day. Cyclists need to learn to share the road as much as drivers. But everyone needs to understand that a cyclist may be a nuisance to a driver, but a vehicle is indeed the equivalent of a loaded weapon when driven by emotion.

Dr Thompson took himself down by acting on emotions and his intent was clear. He's fortunate that he didn't kill anybody.

I can't wait to ride Mandeville Canyon -

Another Mike Davis first for the most insane city in the world. Only in psycho LA could this be such an issue. Only in Los Angeles would a bicycle gang, the Night Riders, have tacit support from the ruling class of which they themselves emanate, to threaten, intimidate, discriminate, and escalate the growing facist two wheel terrorism that is gripping this pathetic metropolis. Of course, unlike the anti- Proposition 8 cowards, who were far too terrified to march in South LA, I would love to see these Brown Shirts do their college best by riding into Highland Park again, where the Avenues so warmly welcomed them just a short time ago.

I used to live in Santa Monica in the fifties and Mandeville off of Sunset was a great place to ride. Even back then there were routes where cars didn't not wish to share the road. Cycling PCH on a weekend with the terrible traffic could result in some close encounters by angry motorists as the bicyclist could pass the stopped cars.
I still ride but in a different part of Southern California and is much more dangerous that it should be.

We should work toward having totally separate bike paths for cyclists. Forcing bikes and cars to share the roads will always be difficult.

To motorists defending this guy, remember that he has prior incidents with cyclists. It's only a matter of chance that he doesn't have other victims, at least none that we know about, in his attempts to "teach us a lesson." That's indefensible. Motorists all over the world co-exist with cyclists, it's just a matter of courtesy and respect. But in this country, and in this state, cyclists get neither. As a cyclist, I know that when push comes to shove, the guy with two tons of steel is going to win out over the one on twenty pounds of steel. I am going to die because you don't want to slow down?

The good doctor seems to have forgotten the Hippocratic Oath. Maybe he took the Hypocrite Oath instead.

I think five years was appropriate for Dr Thompson but what about the malicious cyclists who weave in and out of traffic like they are a car, give you the finger when you want to pull into your own driveway and nearly run you down in the crosswalk when you are a pedestrian? I'm tired of these judges who practice their own prejudices in sentencing-try listening to both sides for once! Cyclists are not the end all and be all-either obey the law or else!

All of us, motorists and bicycle riders alike, should show courtesy, of course. And this doctor was arrogand and needs to be taught a lesson. But a short jail sentence would have been quite sufficient. Five years in prison is absolutely ludicrous, insanity as another commenter said. Our prisons are terribly overcrowded and ought to be reserved for only the worst criminals. This doctor's entire life is now ruined for a momentary loss of temper. There should be no pleasure in that. The vehemence of the cyciists who cheer this sentence demonstrates arrogance, too, I think.

Thankfully, there is justice in a case like this. Mr. Thompson deliberately used his car to assault the bicyclists. He admitted as much at the accident scene. What did he expect would happen when he used a vehicle that probably weighs 2 tons against two riders on bikes that probably weigh 20 lbs each "to teach them a lesson"? At that moment, his vehicle became a weapon. He's lucky they weren't permanently disabled, or worse. Anyone who says the sentence was excessive or unfair is dillusional.

I to ride a bicycle however not on the same roads as cars, cyclists who share the road with cars are very annoying, they get in the way, I have a very strong feeling the cyclists are also to blame in this situation but of course I was not there to see what really happened.

Not to downplay the seriousness of the offense, but as a runner I've had some nasty run-ins with bicycle riders. I have been sworn at, harrassed, and nearly clipped by bicyclists, and the air of entitlement really makes me upset. I do think the sentence was fair, but I don't think that bicyclists should look at this incident and feel like victims. It is important that they look at this incident with a mind towards improving their own behavior as well.

Dennis Manuel - actually, you're wrong. If someone zooms ahead of you and then deliberately nails their brakes causing you to crash into them, 99% of the time it's that person's fault, not yours. (I say 99% because that's the kind of thing that typically gets decided in court) People often do this to 'teach a lesson,' (like in the case at hand) or sometimes for insurance fraud. Either way, it's a crime.

In any event, Chris Thompson is very, very lucky that he didn't kill anyone.

As annoying as bike riders in this city are, they still have the right to be on the road. We drivers are obligated under the law to share the road with them. And that is that.

Furthermore, there is nothing "insane" about asking all people to be treated equally under the law whether they are medical doctors with a history of slamming on their brakes in front of bicyclists or famous Hollywood directors who drug and sodomize minors.

If those guys had been plumbers, everyone would be screaming bloody murder. Take your blinders off. This a republic and we're not supposed to have royalty.

If he did this on purpose because he was mad or felt endangered I feel its a low sentence.But if just accident he should get probation.But still a car is a deadly weapon and the law should be applied as such to person driving wheter stressed,mad,all those counts carry alot.I think this docter didnot do this intensely and should not be put in jail,a docter safes lives!!remeber that..

These bikers must feel the same as hikers do who are continually terrorized by mountain bikers. Too bad they're probably not the same bikers.

I think the judge was too harsh. Maybe he rides a bicycle too or maybe he hasn't had a bike just pull out in front of him suddenly forcing him into the other lane or diving down a narrow winding road you come upon 3 riders, side by side, oblivious to the world around them and have to honk to get them to move. Personally, i think the Doctor should have gotten probation/community service. He's 60 years old, no record, the bikers had a part in the whole thing so that's why the judge is wrong. Appeal and I and many others will email the courts to protest the harshness and side with the Dr.

wow I bet the judge also is a bike rider,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,stay to the right and give way to the heavier car makes sense.


I really feel so bad reading this ER doctor sentenced to 5
yrs. in prison. What is the difference between an ER doctor
to an ER ambulance wherein all the vehicles stop when they
heard the siren.I think doctors should be allowed to put
siren in their cars so they will have they same respect
with those ER ambulance.Remember, theres a life waiting for
them in the ER.The judge should consider all of these not
only on the bikers. I believe the doctors just want them to
drive safely in place. It's just like parents want to
protect their children from a danger zone.Forgive and
forget as what GOD wants as to do.

I moved here from out of state last year and I agree that there are a lot of crazy, out-of-control drivers in CA that need to have a lesson taught to them. But I have also noted comments about disrespectful bike riders, and I am not surprised. It sounds like the respect needs to go both ways. People here need to care a little bit more about their neighbors here and a little bit less about themselves - I hear about hit-and-run accidents all the time in LA, and it boggles my mind how often people run over someone with their car and don't even stop to see if they're ok. I believe that the doctor's side of the story too. We need doctors in the hospitals, not in jail. 5 years in jail is too much.

Having commuted to work for the past thirty years here in San Diego I have to say that for the most part drivers are courteous to cyclists and for the most part cyclists obey the rules of the road. Its really sad to see how anger can cause so much pain and suffering. Hopefully the doctor will be able to use his time in custody to both his and society's benefit.

Those cyclists got what they deserved, wanna share the road? pay the fees we pay for auto registration

Thompson's harsh/hard sentencing is due to strength in advocacy...because there is a large community of cyclists, the sentence reflected their demands for "justice."

Five years for vehicular assault is harsh. There have been rape and child molestation convictions less than this sentence.

Serial rapists and child predators probably get half of what this doctor got.

There's your justice system...

five years is excessive. 18 months would be appropriate.

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