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Driver sentenced after killing California cross-country biker

Can a punishment for a defendant's irreversible act of carelessness ever satisfy a family who's lost a loved one? Courts can force a Los Angeles lawbreaker to do time in prison or pay compensation to a victim's survivors. These verdicts provide some solace for family members, who accept substitutes for a loss that cannot be replaced.

A California record studio owner sold his business and embarked on a cross-country bicycle trip in 2012. The 30-year-old man was riding through a business loop in an East Coast state with a friend, when the bicyclist was hit by a pickup truck traveling 55 mph. The helmetless rider was thrown over 100 feet and suffered critical injuries, which 10 days later proved to be fatal.

The truck driver veered over the white line along the right side of the road and later admitted he never saw the bike riders. The second rider suffered no bike accident injuries. Police arrested the driver, whose blood alcohol content level was above the state limit at 0.14 percent, and charged him with causing the fatality.

The defendant, the son of a prominent city official, recently pleaded guilty after agreeing to a plea deal. The driver will spend six months behind bars and three years on probation, with the condition that he remains clean and sober. More than $20,400 in restitution also was ordered.

Perhaps to dispel any criticism that the outcome smacked of "afluenza," – the current term to describe light punishments for children of wealthy parents -- prosecutors made it clear the status of the defendant's father had no bearing on the sentence. The convicted man's family said the defendant was participating in an ongoing substance abuse program. No one from the victim's family was present to hear the defendant's apology.

Criminal punishment is a single form of justice. Damage awards from juries in civil courts signify an acknowledgment of the defendant's liability.

Source: News & Recird, "Thomasville man takes plea deal in bicyclist's death" McClatchy Regional News Service, Apr. 03, 201 

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