Deputy Who Hit Biking Napster Exec While Driving Distracted Won't Face Charges
The L.A. County District Attorney announced today that it wouldn't be pressing charges against a Sheriff's deputy whose patrol car drifted into a Calabasas bike lane, killing biker and former Napster executive Milton Everett Olin, Jr. The officials said in a statement that though Deputy Andrew Wood was distracted by a mobile digital computer, causing him to veer into a bike lane, he hadn't broken any laws. The statement said:
“Wood entered the bicycle lane as a result of inattention caused by typing into his (Mobile Digital Computer),” according to the declination letter prepared by the Justice System Integrity Division of the District Attorney’s Office and released Wednesday. “He was responding to a deputy who was inquiring whether the fire investigation had been completed. Since Wood was acting within the course and scope of his duties when he began to type his response, under Vehicle Code section 23123.5, he acted lawfully.”
Olin, 65, was cycling in the bike lane in the 22400 block of Mulholland Highway in the same direction as the deputy when he was struck by the patrol car on Dec. 8. Olin smashed into the windshield and was pronounced dead at the scene. Olin, from Woodland Hills, was formerly the COO of Napster during 2000 to 2002 and a prominent entertainment lawyer at Altschul & Olin LLC in Encino.
The Vehicle Code cited is the law banning texting-while-driving, but one section makes an exception for emergency services professionals, like Wood:
(e) This section does not apply to an emergency services professional using an electronic wireless communications device while operating an authorized emergency vehicle, as defined in Section 165, in the course and scope of his or her duties.
To prosecute Wood, prosecutors said they would have to determine that Wood's encroachment into the bike lane was negligent, The Los Angeles Daily News reports. Apparently, the District Attorney decided that Olin's death wasn't proof enough of negligence.
Wood was texting from a personal cell phone before the collision, but the District Attorney said there was no evidence that texting caused the crash. The Daily News' Brenda Gazaar has more information from the DA's statement:
DA's Office; But He did not complete the message...then the roadway curved slightly to the left but Wood continued along the same path.— Brenda Gazzar (@bgazzar) August 27, 2014
DA: Evidence indicates that prior to the collision, Wood’s personal CELL PHONE was only in use while his patrol vehicle was NOT in motion.— Brenda Gazzar (@bgazzar) August 28, 2014
DA: Wood briefly took his eyes away from the road precisely when the narrow roadway curved slightly to the left without prior warning...— Brenda Gazzar (@bgazzar) August 28, 2014
...causing him to inadvertently travel straight into the bike lane, immediately striking Olin, according to DA's Office— Brenda Gazzar (@bgazzar) August 28, 2014
Unlike civil case where standard of proof is "by a preponderance of evidence," prosecutors have to prove Wood was criminally neglig w/doubt— Brenda Gazzar (@bgazzar) August 28, 2014
Actually, they have to prove he was criminally negligent beyond a reasonable doubt.— Brenda Gazzar (@bgazzar) August 28, 2014
To say biking advocates are unhappy with the DA's decision to not press charges is an understatement:
Just horrendous. Law enforcement or not, one should not be distracted while driving.Someone was killed while riding legally in the bike lane— Megan Lynch (@may_gun) August 27, 2014
UPDATE 8/28: Here's the full release from the District Attorney.