Hit and Run Driver Gets Off Felony Charge

December 17th, 2010

Martin Joel Erzinger

Yesterday in the case I’ve been following where Martin Joel Erzinger for a cyclist near Edwards, CO and left the scene of the accicent, Eagle County District Judge Fred Gannett accepted the plea bargain that dropped the felony charge. Erzinger has consistently maintained that he was unaware he had struck anyone after falling asleep at the wheel of his car, drifting off the road and hitting a culvert. I doubt that’s true and the cyclist that was hit, Dr. Steven Milo, says he never accepted responsibility for his actions.

In accepting the plea, Eagle County District Judge Fred Gannett told Milo that the agreement was perhaps one that he might not have made, but was not outside the realm of what he considered to be reasonable. Gannett then sentenced Erzinger to a year’s probation on the careless-driving charge and 90 days in county jail for failing to report the accident.

The latter was suspended until Jan. 1, 2011, at which time Erzinger must submit to the court his choice of one of two options: 60 days’ work-release, or 45 days of charity work that will require him to leave Denver and take a leave of absence from his job.

Read the full details on VeloNews.

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Update on Hit and Run by Money Manager

December 14th, 2010

Martin Joel Erzinger

A little over a month ago it came to light that Mark Hurlbert, the DA in Eagle, CO, was had offered a plea bargain that dropped a felony charge against Martin Joel Erzinger for a hit and run involving a cyclist near Edwards, CO. Erzinger is a money manager for wealthy clients. Hulbert said “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.”

VeloNews has posted an update on the case. A judge will hear the case this Thursday, December 16. It also says that as a financial adviser he should have reported that he was charged with a felony but it appears he hasn’t.

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DA Defends Rich Man Not Getting Felony Charge

November 19th, 2010

Last week I wrote about a wealthy money manager, Martin Joel Erzinger, hitting a cyclist and seriously injuring him in Avon, CO. He left him laying in the road and drove a few miles before he called Mercedes roadside assistance because he had a broken mirror and damaged bumper. He claims he didn’t know he hit anyone.

If Erzinger knew he hit Milo, it’s clear Erzinger should be locked up. If he didn’t know (which I don’t believe), then he shouldn’t be driving and his license should be revoked for life and his Mercedes taken from him.

The District Attorney, Mark Hurlbert, decided to not charge him with a felony even though Colorado law is clear that it’s a class 5 felony. Hurlbert said that “felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in Mr. Erzinger’s profession, and that entered into his decision”. The news quickly spread from the cycling community to mainstream media. Last I checked over 13 thousand people signed online petition asking Hurlbert to not drop the felony charge.

Hurlbert explained in a letter posted by the Vail Daily that it was too late to change since the plea bargain had been offered. Not that he would have considered it anyway because he argues that he made the best choice.

Because Erzinger had no previous criminal record, he would have likely been given a deferred sentence on the felony charge. If he met the conditions of the deferred sentence, in 2 to 4 years the felony would be removed from his record and he’d be able to say he hadn’t had a felony. In the meantime he could have lost his securities license and if not he’d have to notify all of his clients that he’s a convicted felon.

Erzinger has plead guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and careless driving causing serious bodily injury. These misdemeanors will stay on his record. He will lose his driver’s license, face potential jail time as determined by the judge and still have to pay restitution.

Milo’s attorney has filed a motion asking the court to review the District Attorney’s decision. The judge could still throw out the plea bargain deal. Then Erzinger could face all 3 charges.

VeloNews has an article that explains the legal issues in the case in more depth.

In other car versus cyclist craziness, Cyclelcious posted about a drunk driver that killed a 7th grade boy riding his bike. The driver is now in jail and is suing the boy’s parents for “contributory negligence” because he wasn’t wearing a bike helmet.

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Hitting and Leaving Cyclist on Road Isn’t a Felony?

November 8th, 2010

Bike Wreck

That’s what District Attorney Mark Hurlbert believes if the hit and run driver has a high paying job. Hulbert is the DA that didn’t have a problem charging Katie Brazelton and Wendy Lyall with felonies last spring because Wendy raced with Katie’s Leadville 100 entry in 2009. Both of them lost their jobs even though the charges pleaded down to misdemeanors.

On July 3rd, Dr. Steven Milo was riding his bike near Edwards, CO and was hit from behind by Martin Joel Erzinger. Erzinger drove a few miles to Avon where he called the Mercedes auto assistance service to ask that his car be towed because of damage. Erzinger told police he didn’t know he had hit Milo.

Milo suffered spinal cord injuries, bleeding from his brain and damage to his knee and scapula, according to court documents. Over the past six weeks he has suffered “disabling” spinal headaches and faces multiple surgeries for a herniated disc and plastic surgery to fix the scars he suffered in the accident.

Now the DA wants to drop felony charges against Erzinger and instead let him plead to two misdemeanor traffic charges because he could lose his job. Erzinger is a director in private wealth management at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in Denver. He manages more than $1 billion in assets and would have to publicly disclose any felony charge within 30 days, according to North American Securities Dealers regulations.

The Vail Daily quotes Hulbert as saying “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.”

“Mr. Erzinger struck me, fled and left me for dead on the highway,” Milo wrote. “Neither his financial prominence nor my financial situation should be factors in your prosecution of this case.”

You can read more details on the case in an article from the Vail Daily.

A petition has been set up that asks Hulbert to not drop felony charges. Maybe if Hulbert hears enough outrage, he’ll reconsider.

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More On Leadville 100 Felony Charges

May 13th, 2010
Lance Armstrong at Leadville 100 Start

The news about Katie Brazelton giving her Leadville 100 entry to Wendy Lyall and both of them being charged with criminal impersonation has spread outside of the mountain bike world. There a good post on the Ex-Pat Ex-Lawyer blog with what lead up to the charges.

In a letter to the Lake County Sheriff, Leadville 100 organizer Ken Chlouber asked for prosecution on theft of services for the $250 in race fees, $225 in awards, plus racer services, including aid stations, security, and a pre-race banquet. That would be much less severe than the criminal impersonation felony that DA Hurlbert charged them with. It seems that Katie Brazelton may have already lost her job over the incident.

As I said I think that cheating to get into the race is serious but worse in this case because of Wendy finishing 2nd in Katie’s age group. Still being charged with a felony is overblown for something like this.

Some people are complaining that Ken doesn’t enforce his rules consistently. We own an old mining claim in Lake County close to Leadville and we always say it’s still the wild, wild west there. It’s not just that Ken runs the Leadville 100 that way. Even so about 10 times as many people wanted to do the race this year as are allowed in.

The Leadville 100 entry lottery isn’t totally a lottery. Some number of riders appear to get picked and the rest get drawn in the lottery. I know riders that have used a friend’s address in Leadville so they’d get picked. Leadville is small enough that Ken and whoever else does the preferred picking probably know when that is the case but the riders have still gotten into the race.

UltraRob

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Felony Charge for Racing Leadville 100 Without Entry

May 10th, 2010
Leadville 100 Start

The Leadville 100 mountain bike race has long made it clear that entries are non-refundable and non-transferable. It’s one of a very few races where I’ve had to show my ID to pick up my race packet. Now race organizer, Ken Clouber, has made it clear just how seriously he takes racing with another person’s entry.

Last year Katie Brazelton was injured and unable to race. Rather than just lose her entry, she gave her entry to her friend Wendy Lyall. I’m not sure how that worked because of the required photo ID check. My guess is that Katie picked up the race packet herself.

During race check-in though they put on a bright green band that must be worn during the race and still be on to pick up awards. Although you have to give your race number to check in the morning of the race, they haven’t checked for my band. During the race I can’t tell that they look for the band so it may have not been noticed if Wendy wasn’t wearing one. In the photo with the Denver Post article there’s something green on her left wrist but it’s not clear enough to tell if it’s the required band.

The switch off may have gone unnoticed but Wendy finished in 9:53:27. That was fast enough to put her in 2nd place in the 40-49 age group even though she was 36. Ken Chlouber received an anonymous tip that it might not have been Katie Brazelton racing.

According to the Denver Post article Rachel Farrett, who finished 3rd didn’t recognize the woman who picked up the prize from the race the day before. Farrett remembers the woman who passed her on the race course had blond hair. The woman who accepted the trophy did not.

After being contacted by Ken and Lake County Sheriff Ed Holte, the women returned the belt buckle, pendant and necklace. Ken didn’t think that was enough since the true 2nd and 3rd place finishers didn’t get to enjoy their accomplishment. He also banned both women from ever competing in the Leadville 100 and now Katie and Wendy have been charged with criminal impersonation, a Class 6 felony.

I think using someone else’s entry is a serious thing and it was much worse in this case because Wendy finished 2nd in an older age group. I’m not sure that USA Cycling has anything in the rules to deal with something like this other than suspending them from other races.

Filling felony charges does seem to be going a bit far. I’ve heard the race received well over 10,000 entries for this year’s race. Last year there were 1,400 entries accepted but I haven’t seen the number for this year yet but I hope it’s not higher. Maybe this case is more about deterring the thousands that didn’t make it in the race lottery from lining up on race day with Lance Armstrong than it is about 2 women from last year’s race.

UltraRob

Update 5/13/10: More On Leadville 100 Felony Charges

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