Light sentence for driver in Michael Katz case announced

You may remember that last year St. Louis area cyclist Michael Katz was killed by a driver with a suspended license driving an uninsured vehicle who admitted to not watching where he was going.

The prosecutor's office declined to prosecute because there were no "aggravating factors". The case was taken up in municipal court where he was charged with various misdemeanors. Just yesterday at a hearing, he was given a relatively light sentence--five weekends in jail.

I might also mention that situations like this are on of the reasons organizations like the Missouri Bicycle Federation exist. We are doing what we can to change the situation. We have proposed legislation already. We are working to education police, prosecutors, and the public. I'm not going to suggest the cure will be simple or easy--it won't. But we ARE working on it.

This coming week MBF Vice President Laurie Chipman is attending the "Traffic Justice Institute", part of ProWalk/ProBike. The institute represents a new thrust on the part of bicycle and pedestrian advocates across the country to address the underlying problems.

St. Louis Bicycle Federation chair Karen Karabell summarized the situation:
Rush was driving a 1991 Ford F150. He told police that he was on his way to work. Following is verbatim from a written voluntary statement he made to police: "While driving eastbound down Olive my neck was sore from the day before I rubbed my neck thinking what a long day was still ahead of me I looked down to see Mr. Katz in my lane about twelve feet in front of my truck traveling in the same direction I put the brake to the floor sliding into Mr. Katz' rear tire as I veered toward the left turning lane once stopped I exited my truck after putting it into park ran toward Mr. Katz he muttered help and turned ran back to my truck for the first aid kit and ran back to Mr. Katz there was a nurse there so I let her proceed because she knows what to do I then moved my truck to the shoulder and the first officer arrived."

At the point of impact, the truck's passenger side headlight assembly was shattered. The right turn signal assembly was cracked. The right hood was bent inward toward the engine compartment and creased on top. There was a noticeable tire imprint mark on the passenger front bumper. . . .

The only charges against him are pending in Creve Coeur Municipal Court. A court clerk would not discuss charges, but confirmed that he is on the docket for a hearing at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14.

The St. Louis County Prosecutor's office reviewed the case but declined to prosecute because there are no aggravating circumstances. Rush was not drunk or drugged, and he had no intent to kill. He apologized to Mike.
KSDK TV News summarized the sentencing:
St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCullouch didn't file criminal charges, so the matter was handled in a Creve Coeur court.

Robert Rush faced several ordinance violations. Those who knew cyclist Michael Katz say that wasn't enough.

Outside the court, family, friends and fellow cyclists showed up in matching shirts reading "I am Michael Katz." The shirts are a way of saying that what happened to Katz could have happened to any one of them. . . .

Rush never faced any felonies charges for what happened. He pleaded guilty on Wednesday to several ordinance violations, including failure to keep a proper lookout and driving on a suspended license. . . .

The group was also disappointed with the sentence.

Rush is getting what's called "shock probation." He'll serve five weekends in jail to see what it's like. If he violates the terms of his parole, he'll have to serve a full year.

"I don't think the sentence was stiff enough. I think he should have been charged with more," says Meyer.

For Katz's wife, this isn't about crime or punishment; it's about change. She hopes people will remember her husband the next time they see cyclists on the road.
The STL Bicycle Federation is asking the prosecutor to revisit the case and consider felony charges. The prosecutor's office says this is unlikely.

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