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

January 8, 2010 | 11:05 am

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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

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