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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)

Hey Sethro...

Why revoke his medical License? His occupation is not relevant to the crime. Now, had he stopped and performed surgery in an effort to make the person's injuries worst, then you can ask for his medical license be removed.

Duh...!!!

I agree with Dennis Manuel. Well said.

Prison is one thing; monetary fines another one, without mentioning the revocation of his medical license. This is a well deserved punishment because of the seriousness of the case, and the fact that it was deliberate. But in principle, wouldn't it sound more logical to actually revoke his driver's license for life ? Isn't this license, after all, the weapon that was used (and which could still be used by him, or anyone) to commit such vicious crimes? Would you allow a murderer to keep using his gun over and over after he has used it against people on the public place?

If ever a case called out for community service, this is the one. Thompson obviously made a bad call, resulting in serious injuries. How much good work can his Doctor give to Southen California, as opposed to sitting behind bars.
" Take a sad song, and make it better ".

Five years is NOT enough. How long would someone get for taking a hammer to a victim's face, knocking out all of their teeth, fracturing their nose, and scarring them for life? That's what Thompson did with his car.

I cannot understand people who blame this on the cyclists. I don't really bike, but I know that bicycles have a RIGHT to use the roads. And they have a RIGHT to take up the whole lane, if necessary for safety (as is likely necessary on a narrow road like Mandeville).

If he had run over a pedestrian in a crosswalk, would you say, "Oh, well lots of pedestrians jaywalk, so that seems fair"? No, of course not! Even if every other cyclist in the world was out there breaking traffic laws, nothing justifies this man's actions.

As a driver, why can't we just be patient if we come across cyclists? What's the rush? Does it make any difference if you get to your destination 30 seconds faster than if you had just waited for the cyclists to pass? Everyone is in way too much of a hurry these days. Sit back people, relax, enjoy the fact you live in SoCal. Lower your blood pressure, live a healthy life. Be respectful to others, don't be so aggressive. Enjoy Life!

The doctor got what he deserved. Remember this happened more then once, and anyone with that much anger behind the wheel should no be driving! The cyclists are lucky to be alive, infact he is lucky as he would be getting alot more then 5 years! I am a cyclist, all I can say is we are out there riding to stay fit, relieve stress and have fun.

BTW, the doctor has coronary artery disease and regular exercise would greatly benefit him, reducing his risk of heart disease! Maybe he should have considered
cycling himself! And anyone that posted negative statements against cyclists, you
should do the same as it is such a fun form of exercise, and stress relief!

Barnacle Bob, I hope you did not mean what you said in your post, if so karma will take care

Drivers do not understand 1/100th of the threat they pose and what we bikers face. I bike 10 miles to and from work every day. I avoid rush hour and busy roads. On average, once a week I am being threatened and nearly run over by an SUV or pickup truck just because I am on the road, as close to the shoulder as possible... I get hit by rear view mirrors a couple times a year, my shoulder nearly cracked... At least once a month, I am a target, a bull's eye for some crazy SUV driver: they throw rocks or trash at me, or full cups of Coke, it's nasty. And belive me, I JUST want to get home, avoid any conflict. I am 6'5", 220 pounds, I have nothing to prove, I am a happy employed and respected person with a great marriage and kids, but I am no match for 50 miles per hour loose guns on the road, I will one day be dead run over by one of you maniacs... you just don't get it: I TRAVEL THE SOME WAY YOU DO EXCEPT I DON'T BURN OIL, I HAVE THE SAME RIGHT TO BE ON THE ROAD AND I DON'T PROVOKE NOONE!!!!!

hmmm, 5 years in prison. If he serves 85% of his sentence the state of California will spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $215,000. It is a ridiculous sentence. I wish that law enforcement would enforce the law against them as rigidly. I rarely (and never at the Rose Bowl) see cyclists stop for stop signs... I do not think that these guys "deserve" what they got - but I can certainly understand why this person was so fed up with rude, inconsiderate cyclists that he allowed road rage to take over the situation.

I agree with Stay on the bike lane. I do believe both parties were at fault - i know I was not there but probably nobody else writing here was there as well. But because of the attitudes of the bikers, total drama queens, they do not appear innocent, They appear so hot headed, could you imagine them on the road on their bikes, with their "me, me" attitude 'get out of the way I am here. I am not saying the doctor was in the right, I am just saying by both appearances, they appear all guilty, all share in this tragic incident. The doctor is guilty of his actions, but he had no intention of killing the bikers as these 3 cyclists insist that Thompson was out to kill. This is very sad and I do fell sorry for the doctor and I do feel 5 years is too long. I know MANY will not agree, but that is okay because these are all our opinions and I am intitled to mine and respect everyone elses opinions. It is a matter of respect which both parties should have considered in the first place then maybe both parties would not be in this situation. Hopefully cyclists will learn from this as well as the motorists

I can see the judge's point -- why believe the crocodile tears, when this man has been dishonest throughout the entire trial, saying he only intended to take a photograph. Is this guy some kind of psychopath? Take his medical license away, please!

Road Rage is Road Rage....A driver who responds with an angry "I'll get you back" mentality to transgressions by others (either real or perceived) is dangerous to everyone who is on or near roads.

Let this person who demonstrated that fits of Road Rage sometimes go very wrong cool his heels in jail.

With good conduct, the aggressive driver will be out of jail in just over a year.
Hopefully the good conduct will continue beyond his jail time served and he will be less of a hazard on the road.

Health Care Reform in Los Angeles - A Five Year Plan

The beauty of the Five Year Plan is that it simultaneously reduces the number of emergency ward visits and bends the cost curve by eliminating the ER physician from the hospital payroll.

I can not wait until gas is $12 per gallon! We will then see a profound change in the harsh views against bicyclists from many of the petro-chemical addicts in Car-ifornia.

Goodness, it's astonishing how remorseful people get and how they find god JUST BEFORE SENTENCING.
Anger managment type courses ( along with sex addiction/substance abuse/racial awareness courses ) are becoming the 21st century's " tick box alternative " get-out-of-jail card for bullies, junkies and racists in some cases. Jail time, long and preferably hard is the answer. If rehabilitation's what's needed, make this fool do hard time and build a cyclepath.

Mark Barnett

United Kingdom

As an avid cyclist, and a former LA area resident, it's a constant battle between bike and car with both into road rage. And the road rage driver of a car will win every time; thus, stop your bike, take drink of h2o, cool down, and let the idiot driver go.... I only know this case via the media whom I seldom trust, so, I won't comment on the sentence or the event. If you're a cyclist in the any densely populated urban area, also be on-guard, and never get into a confrontation with a road raged vehicle, they will always win. For those who think bike lanes are the answer, you're obviously not a cyclist; I've run-off the road by vehicles in the bike lane numerous times... some consider them turn lanes...

As a physician, pedestrian, cyclist and driver, I feel this man got what he deserved. It's easy to be frustrated when you have to slow down in your car and wait to go around somebody but to me that's being truly self centered and thoughtless. We are all supposed to be cautious and look for pedestrians, cyclists, people turning in and out of driveways. Drivers- it's the law to give cyclists room on the road. They are allowed to ride side by side when alone and required to move to single file when traffic approaches (and that takes a few seconds). Drivers should look at a cyclist and think 'maybe that would be fun' or 'good for them staying fit.' It generally keeps us fit, healthy and happy. And we are a vital part of your community. Perhaps some people are just too caught up in their own selfishness to wake up and see the bright side. I am always for people exercising , enjoying the outdoors and using alternate modes of transportation. Congratulations guys for winning your case!

I run into cranky, aggressive drivers every so often too when I'm out cycling. Speaking as both a driver and a cyclist I think his sentence is more than fair.

"local residents who pay for the roads they ride on.2

maybe the cyclists are local residents that pay for the roads they cycle on?


Dennis Manual you don't even deserve a response.

The difference between getting pissed off at people in your way and trying to hurt them with your car is....5 years in prison. You may understand his feeling like doing it, but actions have consequences. If he, a doctor, can't control this kind of dangerous impulse then he needs to do time. I think 5 years was a decent amount of time for him to think about it. I hope the cyclists will also sue him for damages. Next time, doctor dearest, USE YOUR WORDS!!!

Julie,
You are kidding....right?

Barnacle Bob. That is what a conceal carry permit will help put a stop to...finishing the job as you put it.

Let me start by saying that I've biked for 30 years - local riding, urban riding and long distance touring.

He should have gotten some time. Five years -- I don't know. That
seems a little too much. 1-3 would have done it; he loses his license to
practice anyway, which is the real punishment. It was the prior incident
that did him in.

That said, I will lay some fault on the cyclists. It's a busy, narrow road.
They shouldn't have been riding two abreast on that kind of road -- common
sense. Granted they pulled into a single file when he came up. But they
really shouldn't have been doing it in the first place in those
circumstances.

Cyclists have to realize there are two cardinal rules they have to practice
for their own safety. (1) You should ride your bike whenever possible on
roads that motorists expect to see cyclists (true here); and (2) you have to
ride a bicycle the way you drive a car. That forces the car drivers to think
of you as a car, and you become predictable.

I cannot tell you over the years how many people -- bicyclists especially --
that I have told rule #2 to, and they look at me in complete revelation.

In this case, you wouldn't drive a car two abreast down a busy, winding,
narrow road like this. So why would you do it just because you're on a bike?
You take up less width, so you can do it? Yeah, but look what happened
here....

The judge is right. The municipality needs to get off its duff, get with
the cyclists and a traffic engineer and figure out a way to share the road
since the cyclists are in the habit of using the road and that will be hard
to change, or at the very least find a safer feasible alternative route for
the bikers.

This doesn't sound like a road that lends itself to bike lanes, but sharrows - shared lanes - instead. Put up signage about sharing the raod, put down sharrow stencils or decals, and tell both the drivers and the cyclists that since they are both there for good, thet both need to grow up and be responsible adults who show common sense and courtesy toward each other.

Very glad this guy got jail time as it was obviously not the first time he had behaved in this manner.

I would love for bicyclists to be given every right as other vehicles. I'd also like to see the law reflect that by giving them tickets for riding on the sidewalks and for riding unsafely like blowing through stop signs and lights.

My 5 year old daughter and I were injured when a guy on a bike struck us while we were walking on the sidewalk. He rode away and left us bleeding and unable to chase him down. No license plate to identify him. My daughter and I both still have scars on our bodies from this.

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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