LA Road Rage Doctor Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison for Assaulting Bicyclists

laist_1.jpgThe bloody aftermath of the crash that Dr. Christopher Thompson was convicted of intentionally causing. Photo: LAist

Christopher Thompson – aka the Road Rage Doctor – was sentenced to five years in prison today for intentionally causing a crash that hospitalized two cyclists on Mandeville Canyon Road in Los Angeles’ Brentwood neighborhood.

Our colleagues at Streetsblog Los Angeles report that Thompson received two years for assault with a deadly weapon for his attack on Ron Peterson, with a three-year enhancement for causing great bodily injury. Jurors convicted Thompson in November of mayhem; assault with a deadly weapon; battery with serious injury; and reckless driving causing injury. The judge in the case denied a motion from Thompson’s defense for probation.

The case has attracted the attention of bicyclists and the mainstream media because of Thompson’s over-the-top malicious behavior, the graphic images captured of the aftermath, and a 911 tape where Thompson admitted to slamming on his brakes and assured the dispatcher that the cyclists weren’t seriously harmed even as the cyclists lay injured on the ground, some bleeding profusely.

Streetsblog Los Angeles recounts the details of the crash:

During a Fourth of July ride in 2008 Thompson approached a group of cyclists that were training in Mandeville Canyon. After honking at the cyclists, they "exchanged words" and Thompson passed them. He then cut back in front of them and slammed on his brakes, causing the cyclists to slam into the rear of his car. Peterson, an experienced cyclist who actually teaches bike safety, crashed through Thompson’s rear window, bringing horrific pictures to both blogs and the mainstream news of the cyclists and the damage to Thompson’s car.

During his trial, Thompson attempted to place blame on the cyclists, but a mountain of visual and audio evidence was stacked up against him, leading to an important victory for bicycle safety in the courts, since it’s rare for a crash between a driver and a cyclist to even lead to an arrest.

The Los Angeles Times’ LA Now blog reports that Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Scott T. Millington called the case a "wake-up call" to motorists and cyclists. The judge "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," writes LA Now. A police officer who was at the scene testified that Thompson told him he slammed on his brakes to teach the cyclists a lesson. Prosecutors also said that Thompson had a history of run-ins with cyclists, including previous attempts to "teach them a lesson" by injuring them with his vehicle.

While the ruling is a relief for anyone who’s ever ridden a bicycle or has any attachment to justice or common sense, it’s also a stark reminder of just how egregious an offense must be before police and the justice system deem it worthy of investigation and prosecution. In his ruling today, Judge Millington did have a recommendation for avoiding such confrontations in the future: more bike lanes.

  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    Way to ruin your life, genius. I’m sure the Aryan Nation is going to be really impressed that you’re in for running your yuppie sedan into some bicyclists.

  • Nice. That’s a pretty good outcome.

  • mcas

    Before everyone starts foaming at the mouth that it is ‘only 5 years’ for this horrible crime, take a minute and think what a clean-record 50+ year old would have gotten if he’d done this much bodily harm with a baseball bat. I’d argue it is about even, and that is encouraging to me…

  • Pat

    This is pretty heavy but under the law he was using his car as one would a gun. Intentionally assaulting two men with it. That, the serious injuries, the lack of remorse and the TERRIBLE attorney made for the stiff sentence.

    Regardless, it’s important to note that this was not “cars v. cyclists.” It was one guy, repeatedly confronting and assaulting legit cyclists who were not doing anything wrong or even rude before the incidents. There is no “precedent.” There is no “victory.” It’s a tragedy for all.

  • Everyone has a right

    I’m hoping that bicycles are banned from Mandeville for the safety of all (pedestrians, their animals, vehicular traffice AND bike riders). Mandeville although has a beautiful and slow elevation that bicyclists love, is a narrow street EVEN FOR vehicles. And on trash day, there is absolutely no room.

    The aging drivers of Mandeville should be another factor in the consideration of bicyclists up the beautiful canyon road. But it’s every man for himself when traveling ANYplace that is so narrow.

    I’ve even seen emergency vehicles (firetrucks and ambulances) have difficulty in managing the downhill (towards the hospital) part of the canyon.

    Until everyone realizes that when in our vehicles and bicycles, we ALL stop at stop signs (bicycles rarely stop at the Mandeville stop signs)and that we ALL obey the 30mph speed limit (both cars and bicycles violate this code), we are all at risk of injury or death.

  • mcas

    @Everyone has a right: Why ban bikes? Why not ban cars, instead? Wouldn’t that give much more room to pedestrians, animals, and emergency vehicles, especially on trash day…?

    Furthermore, EVERYONE has a right to a road– and it is illegal to simply ‘ban’ bikes from a road in California, actually without providing an alternate path.

    Bikes are not second-class citizens who are first to be on the chopping block, as you suggest. We bicycle riders were on the roads long before cars were invented, so I don’t see why you think we should be first to go…

  • injustice

    too harsh of a sentence! rapists and murderers get less time! Give me a break! Waste of tax payers money. Cyclists don’t own the road! We need to inforce road rules for cylclists.

  • Clutch J

    This is one of the most important events in the history of bicycling in California. For a sober motorist to receive such a sentence is almost unprecedented. What a marvelous precedent! The tide is turning.

  • Uppity Cyclist

    @injustice: Cyclists don’t own the road and neither do cars. The roads are for the public but motorists don’t seem to get that.

  • @injustice – Your comment is incoherent. If you’re going to troll this website at least put some thought into it. I give you a D.

    It’s a shame that it happened but given the circumstances it seems an appropriate punishment.

  • Guy’s a d i c k.

  • Ringo Lennon

    @injustice – I’m sure you (and others like you) love to put comments out there to incite responses. Know this though – the road is for all to use. I’m not going to go into the whole “follow the rules” thing. There are small percentages of both cyclists and motor vehicle drivers are guilty of not following rules.

  • I agree with the sentence for this guy. His deliberately injuring cyclists is despicable and must be severely punished.

  • JC

    I am tired of bicyclists taking no responsibility for their behavior on the road as well. While the doctor was not right in doing what he did, I can see how this reached the boiling point, and I think five years is harsh sentence as I am sure the cyclists were not completely innocent in provoking him. No one ever considers how cyclists act toward cars and drivers. They are usually arrogant and act so entitled most of the time, as if they own the road and acting aggressively and putting themselves in dangerous situations next to cars because they think they ARE a car. I too have many times rolled down my window asking cyclists to ride single file so that I DON”T HIT THEM, or have had to swerve into a lane of traffic putting myself in danger just to avoid hitting them as they ride way too far out into the lane or make a wide turn with no consideration whatsoever for the cars driving, and rather than appreciate my concern they flip me off or cuss me out. Most of them are arrogant jerks who think they are indestructable and immortal but will be the first to blame drivers if they get in an accident, despite riding dangerously in traffic lanes, swerving in front of cars and turning without using hand signals. One time a guy was looking down at the ground and was riding his bike right toward my car which was stopped at a stop sign. I honked to alert him because I could see he wasn’t paying attention. He crashed into my car and then tried to blame me that I hit him. It was complete bull and luckily I had a witness to tell the guy that I was right and that he simply ran into my car. Otherwise I am sure he would have cried foul. My first concern when he crashed was to make sure he was okay and all he did was yell at me. He never paid for the damage he caused to my car by his bike because I didn’t press that he did. Battling cyclists and pedestrians is not worth it because they have this entitled attitude that they have the right of way no matter what they do, and that is just not true. They too must take responsibility for their actions on the road and their own safety, just like we drivers do, and if a driver honks at you or tries to tell you something it’s probably for YOUR own safety, so try to show some appreciation and respect rather than the usual hostile reaction.

  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    Hey JC where is your God-given right to pass a bicyclists encoded in the law? If you happen upon a bicyclist that you cannot safely pass, the thing to do is to NOT PASS. Just sit back and wait until a safe passing opportunity presents itself.

  • NoeValleyJim

    I’m hoping that cars are banned from Mandeville for the safety of all (pedestrians, their animals, vehicular traffice AND bike riders). Mandeville although has a beautiful and slow elevation that bicyclists love, is a narrow street EVEN FOR vehicles. And on trash day, there is absolutely no room.

  • zsolt

    “Hey JC where is your God-given right to pass a bicyclists encoded in the law?”

    Heh heh… JC… God given..

  • Hey JC, are you one of those “she deserved it” guys? You know, the kind who thinks women in short skirts are asking to be assaulted? Maybe the kid with the lisp should go hide himself when other kids bully him into suicidal thoughts because if he really wanted to do something about it he would get a speech therapist? I piss you off and you can kill me? I suggest thinking your point over a bit, because that is exactly how you come across and I doubt that is your intent.

    As to the Dr. I still would like to know if his medical license has been yanked? Could someone please follow that up. How about his driver’s license?

  • Stephen from PDX

    @Adrienne, exactly!

    @JC, shame on you.

    No amount of inconvenience can justify what is essentially attempted murder. Someone can be an arrogant, irresponsible cyclist–and I agree that people like that are assholes, since we’ve got plenty of them in Portland–but they’re realistically only putting themselves at risk. Someone driving dangerously can kill a cyclist or other drivers. Someone driving dangerously on purpose with the attempt to frighten, injure, or kill is as bad as someone shooting someone else with a gun.

    When something like this comes up, there is no moral equivalency. Changing the subject to the poor behavior of other cyclists you’ve encountered obscures the fact that this man committed attempted murder and was deservedly sentenced to several years in prison.

  • Michelle Discher

    Appalling in scale and scope, the guy got what he deserved, and needs to pay for it. With that said, I have to also say that cyclists outside of Davis, CA are very often obnoxious, self-righteous, and very often disinclined to consider any other wheeled conveyance or pedestrians near them. I say Davis, because there, law enforcement MAKES bicyclists acknowledge that when they’re seated on the bike, they constitute a vehicle. That means it’s illegal to ride on a pedestrian path–at crosswalks, on the sidewalk, etc. You do that, you get a ticket. You must stop at stop signs like all other vehicles. You must ride with the traffic, not towards oncoming traffic. The tickets are not cheap either. If more cities enforced these rules, I think there’d be fewer chances for the mayhem we see here in this article.

  • jk

    Pathetic. Bicycles have no regard for traffic flow and efficiency of traffic. There’s no doubt the bikers were riding should-to-shoulder grinding traffic to a 20mph halt. It is not justice to remove a medical doctor from practice. These bicyclists would not have incurred this wrath had they stay out of traffic instead of hindering it. The extremist bicycling minority thinks it has the right to inconvenience the vast majority of motorists. The rule ought to be that bicyclists not disrupt traffic flow. Obviously, bicyclists are so selfish that the absurd punishment of an MD being taken out of service has no impact.

    If you rear-end another vehicle, it’s your fault. Full stop. These bicyclists had no business on a busy road. Bicyclists are the selfish factions Madison warned against. They have a complete disregard for everyone. I witnessed it Manhattan during the Republican convention when hippy filth bikers brought roads all over the city to a halt. I’ve read about this being a monthly occurrence in SF.

    @Discher- If bicyclists obeyed already existing rules of traffic flow and the road, they wouldn’t bring this upon themselves.

  • jk is onto something… anyone impeding he flow of traffic is just a nuisance and should get off the roads. and the number one group that constantly gets in the way and impedes the flow of traffic is… motorists.

    i feel sorry for the poor motorists stuck in traffic as i pass them by the dozens each day on my speedy bike.

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