This week, a Kansas Jury rendered a verdict in a criminal case that should give cyclists great reason for concern. The Johnson County District attorney charged and prosecuted Paul Hanley of Olathe, Kansas with Aggravated Battery, a felony, following a car bicycle collision last fall near Heritage Park.
The cyclist (my client) was riding alone and lawfully using a public thoroughfare. There had been no confrontation or interaction between the parties. Nevertheless. Hanley pulled in front of the cyclist, slammed on his brakes and caused a collision between the two. Not satisfied, the Hanley vehicle then wheeled around, hit the bike and sent it into a ditch, causing injury to the cyclist and structural damage to the bike.
In spite of eye-witness testimony from a Deputy Sheriff and others, the jury rendered a verdict of NOT GUILTY. I did not participate in this trial (because criminal prosecutions are handled by prosecutors) and the accounts are anecdotal, and I did not poll the jurors. But what is clear is that in the eyes of of these citizens, the conduct shown by the defendant did not rise to the level warranting a criminal conviction. If a jury is the voice of a community, then Johnson County is a scary place to ride.
As a postscript, I did file and resolve a civil claim against the driver. The good news is that the cyclist has recovered and is back on the road. What isn’t clear is why this type of dangerous conduct goes unpunished.
Bike Law founder and bicycle crash lawyer Peter Wilborn has raced, toured, commuted, and ridden his bike daily for fun. In 1998, Peter had a bike tragedy in his own family, realized firsthand the need for lawyers who understand cycling, and devoted his law practice to Bike Law.