Cyclist's Guilty Plea in SF Pedestrian's Death May Be First in Nation

Wednesday, 24 Jul 2013 01:45 PM

By Ken Mandel

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A bicyclist charged with slamming into and killing a 71-year-old pedestrian in San Francisco has pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter, possibly the first outcome of its kind in the United States.

In a plea deal, 37-year-old Chris Bucchere won't see jail time, but received three years' probation and 1,000 hours of community service for the death of Sutchi Hui, district attorney George Gascon told the San Francisco Chronicle, adding that he believes it is the country's first vehicular manslaughter conviction against a cyclist.

"Mr. Bucchere has been held accountable to a historic level," Gascon told Reuters. "What he did deserved prosecution. This is about sending a clear message about prevention."

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Bucchere had sped quickly past three red lights when he slammed into Hui on a downhill slope, as Hui and his wife crossed a crowded intersection on March 29, 2012, prosecutors said. Hui died four days later, and his family filed a civil suit.

According to Gascon, witnesses described a fast-moving cyclist who ignored several red lights and road signs, which prompted the pursuit of a felony conviction, television station KPIX reported. An investigation showed he was traveling at 30 miles per hour, Alex Bastian, a spokesman for the District Attorney's Office, told Reuters, citing Strava, a GPS-based device that can time cyclists on a route.

Under California law, a felony conviction for vehicular manslaughter can bring a six-year maximum sentence in prison, versus one year in jail for a misdemeanor.

"His selfish motivation, his need for speed and his behavior were completely horrible," Gascon told KPIX.

Gascon told that the conviction sends a strong message.

"We made it very clear that we wanted Mr. Bucchere to be held accountable, and I think it was important to get a felony conviction because the conduct warranted it," Gascon said. "On the other hand, he is a first-time offender, and we want to give him a chance for rehabilitation and redemption."

Still, the Hui's family didn't want to see Bucchere jailed and prosecutors didn't think such a sentence was possible, so they offered probation and community service as a compromise.

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"We believe this is the best outcome for this type of case," he said.

Bucchere is due to be sentenced Aug. 16, and a superior court judge could decide within six months to reduce the crime to a misdemeanor.

Related stories:

Bicyclist pleads guilty in crash that killed woman

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