International Attention on Dropped Felony Charges in Colorado
Emotions are running high across the globe about a decision made by the Colorado District Attorney last week in a hit-and-run car accident case involving a bicyclist and a Mercedes.
The fact that we can look to the Mail Online in the United Kingdom to find news from Colorado shows the level of international interest developing, especially amongst the cycling groups. Here is their synopsis of the situation:
Martin Joel Erzinger, 52, was set to face felony charges for running over a doctor who he hit from behind in his 2010 Mercedes Benz, and then speeding off.
But now he will simply face two misdemeanour traffic charges from the July 3 incident in Eagle, Colorado.
His victim, Dr Steven Milo, 34, is meanwhile facing ‘a lifetime of pain’ from his injuries.
Erzinger is a private wealth manager who administers portfolios in excess of $1 billion for Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in Denver. The prosecutors state that he is willing to pay restitution. They also state that they’ve downgraded the charges from felony to misdemeanor because felony convictions would impact Erzinger’s ability to continue in his profession and thus pay this restitution.
Dr. Milo was bicycling along Highway 6 near Eagle and heading east when Erzinger allegedly hit him in a black 2010 Mercedes Benz sedan. After the car accident, Erzinger left the scene of the accident and was later arrested, according to police reports. He continued driving until he reached a Pizza Hut parking lot, which he pulled into and called Mercedes auto assistance to report the damage to his vehicle.
The Mail Online article also provides Dr. Milo’s statement on the subject:
‘Mr Erzinger struck me, fled and left me for dead on the highway,’ he wrote. ‘Neither his financial prominence nor my financial situation should be factors in your prosecution of this case.’
Cycling website Velonation‘s Conal Andrews reports the D.A.’s response as well as noting an interesting twist, the Kobe Bryant link:
Hurlbert said otherwise on Thursday ‘The money has never been a priority for them. It is for us,’ Hurlbert said. ‘Justice in this case includes restitution and the ability to pay it.’
‘Felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in Mr. Erzinger’s profession, and that entered into it. When you’re talking about restitution, you don’t want to take away his ability to pay.’
[It is at this point in the article that we see the perception of the case that is garnering such attention everywhere.]
Essentially, that appears to mean if Erzinger had a different profession, that the felony charges could have progressed.
The Vail Daily notes that DA Hurlbert and Milo’s attorney Haddon have clashed before. Hurlbert was the lead prosecutor in the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case, while Haddon was one of the basketball player’s defence attorneys.
This case is amassing a vast audience, including a wide array of cycling groups and media both stateside and abroad. Thanks to the instantaneous nature of information access that the Internet provides, those with an interest are able to not only keep up with the news updates, but also provide a public platform for their criticism. Road.cc, a high profile cycling website in the U.K., starts its coverage with the following:
We can’t pretend to be knowledgeable about the US legal system, but that doesn’t mean we can’t smell the stench of something rotten when it wafts over to this side of the Atlantic.
Its coverage ends with the same basic tagline that we are seeing on numerous blogs and websites across the net, “We’ll keep you posted.” It seems that this personal injury case will be one of the most watched and commented on in the state. Much like the other websites out there, we will try to keep you updated on both the facts of the situation and the barometer of public opinion.