Outcry Continues After Hit-and-Run Charges Changed

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The blogosphere lit up after news broke last week that a financial manager would not face felony charges after a hit-and-run on a cyclist in Colorado. Here's the latest with updates from involved parties and reactions from our readers.

Dr. Steven Milo was biking outside of Avon, Colorado when Martin Joel Erzinger hit him with his Mercedes Benz. Erzinger then reportedly drove to a local Pizza Hut and called for his car to be towed, but did not report the accident to police. Milo suffered a number of injuries, including damage to his spinal cord, brain, knee and scapula.

The local district attorney, Mark Hurlbert, decided to press misdemeanor instead of felony charges against Erzinger (a director in private wealth management at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in Denver) because:

“Felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in Mr. Erzinger's profession, and that entered into it,” Hurlbert said to the Vail Daily. “When you're talking about restitution, you don't want to take away his ability to pay.”

When we posted news of the incident on our facebook page, here's what some of you had to say…

–This Morgan-Stanley slimeball has a daughter who is a debutante, and spent a summer pedaling around Germany. I wonder how he would have felt if some Mercedes-driving jerk plowed into her, and then left her to die by the roadside. The DA should resign, ASAP (but, of course, won't) …

–Disgusting. This is a clear message that cars rule the road and that cyclists are a nuisance to most drivers. I can't tell you how many times I have nearly been hit by a driver not paying attention and it is scary. This decision based on the fact that it would affect his livelihood is crazy. Like so many people have said here how has the cyclists life been affected? Pretty adversely I would say.

–Hopefully Dr Milo will file a huge civil suit and get the “restitution” he so deserves.

It's not unheard of for a driver involved in a hit and run to be charged with misdemeanors instead of a felony. What has led to the strongest reactions on this case were 1) the decisions made by Erzinger after the accident and 2) the reason given by the district attorney to not press charges.

The Huffington Post updated its story on the accident yesterday with the following from Hurlbert.

District Attorney Mark Hurlbert told HuffPost on Monday afternoon that news reports about the prosecution have been inaccurate. “We charged him with a felony, first of all,” he said.

What's happening is that prosecutors offered Erzinger a plea bargain for restitution and two misdemeanors potentially carrying two years of jail time. What the victim wants, Hurlbert said, is for Erzinger to plead guilty to the felony of leaving the scene of accident, causing serious bodily injury. Under that deal, judgment would be deferred and the felony would be cleared from his record after a few years of good behavior. The misdemeanors, though, would stay on Erzinger's record permanently.

“This is the right plea bargain given the facts of the case, the defendant's prior criminal history and his willingness to take responsibility,” Hurlbert said. “We feel this is far more punitive than the felony deferred.”

The outcry has led to more than 1,000 emails to District Attorney Mark Hurlbert and more than 6,000 signatures and counting on a petition to change the misdemeanor charges back to a felony.

–Joe Spring


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