ACTION ITEM: Demand Justice for Milt Olin
Update: September 18, 2014: Earlier today, LACBC filed a public records request with the District Attorney's office to determine whether Lacey has ever pressed charges for vehicular manslaughter in any case, not just Olin's. When people walking and bicycling (and driving) are killed almost every day in Los Angeles County due to distracted, aggressive, or negligent driving, all relevant agencies must do their part to reduce traffic violence. We continue to invite Lacey to host a town hall with us to hear from victims of traffic violence and discuss ways that her office can partner with law enforcement and the community to end this epidemic.
Update September 11, 2014: Yesterday afternoon, LACBC received a response from District Attorney Jackie Lacey to our September 3rd letter requesting reconsideration of criminal charges against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy who hit and killed prominent entertainment attorney Milt Olin while he was riding in a bike lane during broad daylight on December 8th, 2013. This case has drawn widespread media attention due to Olin’s high profile and the involvement of a sheriff’s deputy.
The District Attorney’s office is maintaining its position that there is not enough evidence to convict Deputy Andrew Wood of vehicular manslaughter, despite the fact that he was texting in the minutes leading up to the collision and, while typing into his mobile digital computer (MDC), left his lane, entered the bike lane, and struck Olin from behind. As outlined in our letter, vehicular manslaughter charges require evidence of negligent driving, defined as driving in an illegal manner, or in an otherwise legal manner which might produce death. That Wood failed to maintain control of his vehicle while distracted, engaged in a task that he knew to be “inherently unsafe” according to department training, and killed a man as a consequence of his actions, is evidently not enough for Lacey to press charges.
LACBC believes that Lacey is wrong in her analysis of this case, and that her failure to prosecute puts the lives of everyone who travels Los Angeles County’s streets at risk. In her response, she fails to distinguish between intent (no one is accusing Wood of intending to kill Olin) and negligence. In fact, her response fails to set any kind of minimum duty of care for drivers to not engage in behavior that is likely to kill.
Every traffic death is both tragic and unnecessary. When someone is killed or seriously injured on our streets, every contributory factor deserves consideration so that future deaths can be prevented: the design of the street, mechanical failure, and, most importantly, the behavior of all involved. When people walking and bicycling (and driving) are killed almost every day in Los Angeles County due to distracted, aggressive, or negligent driving, all relevant agencies must do their part to reduce traffic violence. The District Attorney is responsible for prosecuting individuals for behaviors that put our communities at risk, and using the threat of prosecution as a deterrent to others who might engage in the same behaviors. Our culture has decided to tolerate traffic violence. That acceptance of near-daily death, as if it were an inevitable cost of mobility, leads to insensitivity or outright hostility toward those most at risk--so-called “vulnerable road users”--including people walking and bicycling. In Milt Olin’s case, we are now witnessing a failure of our criminal justice system to protect victims of violence.
We cannot accept that traffic violence is OK and we cannot stay silent when our criminal justice system fails to protect victims. If the District Attorney won’t prosecute a case as clear-cut as Olin’s death, every potential victim of traffic violence is less safe. What happens when the facts of the case aren’t as clear? When a mom is hit crossing the street with her kids in Hollywood? Or a youth riding on the sidewalk in South L.A.?
We invite Lacey to host a town hall with us to hear from victims of traffic violence and discuss ways that her office can partner with law enforcement and the community to end this epidemic.
Please make sure your voice is heard. Please write to District Attorney Lacey to let her know that our lives matter.
September 4, 2014: Last week we learned that the L.A. County District Attorney's Office would not be pressing charges against the sheriff's deputy who struck and killed Milt Olin in Calabasas last December. The sheriff's deputy was typing on his mobile computer in his patrol car when he struck Olin at 48 miles per hour. Olin, a prominent entertainment attorney and former executive for Napster, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Last night, Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Yield to Life, and the Ghost Bike Foundation hosted a ride and vigil for Milt Olin to call on the D.A. to revisit the investigation and consider pressing charges. Thank you to the 120 people who came out. Some met us at the start in Calabasas, some at the L.A. Zoo, some in Grand Park by the Criminal Courts Building, a few at other points along the route--but it was all for the same purpose: to demand justice for Milt and to make our streets safer for all road users.
Many local media outlets (CBS, NBC, ABC, Los Angeles Times, Daily News, Los Angeles Register, Thousand Oaks Acorn, Streetsblog Los Angeles) covered the ride and interviewed the attendees about why they came. Several had stories of motorists hitting them while biking and being moved to participate in the ride and vigil to convey that this is enough. You can see photos from the ride and vigil on our Facebook page and read Tweets with the hashtag #RideForMilt.
Attendees also signed a banner addressed to District Attorney Lacey, urging her to revisit the case and adding personal stories of why this case matters. After submitting our letter to the District Attorney yesterday, we aim to get this banner to her. We also encourage you all to contact the District Attorney's Office as well.
Contact the District Attorney's Office
Here are ways to contact the County of Los Angeles District Attorney's Office:
2. Snail mail to:
District Attorney's Office
County of Los Angeles
210 West Temple Street, Suite 18000
Los Angeles, CA 90012-3210
3. Phone: (213) 974-3512
4. Twitter: @LADAoffice
Subject: Please File Charges; DA Case #34210485
Dear District Attorney Lacey,
Those of us that bike and walk on streets in Los Angeles County are at tremendous risk of becoming victims of traffic violence. In fact, nearly 40% of those killed on LA County streets are bicyclists and pedestrians, triple the national average. This is a problem with many causes, but not least is the role of negligent, distracted and aggressive driving. Milt Olin’s death hits very close to home for me. He was doing absolutely everything right: riding correctly in a bike lane in broad daylight. In contrast, the person who killed him was doing everything wrong: typing on a computer, texting his wife, speeding, and ultimately veering into the bike lane and hitting Milt from behind. As a result, Milt is no longer alive, leaving a grieving wife and two sons who will likely never feel comfortable riding a bike on the road ever again.
As a community, it is critical that we work in a coordinated effort to reduce traffic violence. It is one of the leading causes of death for all age groups and communities across the county. We all must do our part to behave responsibly while driving or riding, and support infrastructure changes to our streets to make them safer for all. Your decision not to prosecute Milt’s killer undermines all of our hard work to make our streets safe and humane. As a result, we can no longer feel safe to move about our communities--no different than if you had chosen not to prosecute any other violent criminal.
It is not too late to correct this injustice. Please reconsider your decision and file charges in this case so that those of us that bike and walk can again feel that we are protected by the justice system.