Bikelash PART V: The Light

On the morning of March 29, 2012, while riding my bicycle, I hit and killed a man who was crossing the street.

This is not a story of who was at fault, though at first it seemed that way.

We all share a critical responsibility when we go out into the world: the duty to keep one another safe. I failed in that responsibility and, as a result, we will never get back the life of Sutchi Hui. Words cannot adequately express how sorry I am for his death and for the loss to his family. I carry that sorrow with me every day.

This story is about what happened after the accident—and it’s a story that happens all too often: High-profile cases get tried not in courtrooms, but on TV and the internet. Media fans the flames, the public quickly passes judgment, and elected officials bend the system to secure political wins—at the expense of due process and fair outcomes.

The narrative is based on court transcripts, newspaper and online articles, television broadcasts, and extensive notes and journal entries I made in the months after the accident. To protect the privacy of others, I changed some names. All else is true to my memory of what happened.

I am sharing this not for redemption or personal profit, but because this side of the story rarely gets told. To make sure our justice system treats all defendants fairly, we need to speak up when it doesn’t.

I’m Chris Bucchere.

And this is Bikelash.

PART V: The Light

CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE

2 July 2012—95 days since the accident

Ted called shortly after lunch and wanted me in his office ASAP. As part of the criminal discovery process—in which each side of a legal conflict swaps their evidence with the other—he had finally received the surveillance video taken by the Twin Peaks Tavern from ADA Omid Talai. I begged him to tell me about it, but he insisted that I come in and look for myself. Because I was between jobs—indefinitely, perhaps—I was wearing colorful shorts and a grubby v-neck t-shirt, but I didn’t care. After an hour-long BART/bike trip that felt three times that long, I arrived at Ted’s office, my hair matted and jutting out from my bike helmet.

Attorney Julie Salamon led me upstairs. My bike shoes clicked up the staircase, which felt more lengthy than it had on previous trips. Julie’s excitement was bubbling over. She always seemed excited, but on this occasion, more so than usual.

“Have you guys seen it yet?” I asked.

“Ted and I have each watched it probably a dozen times,” Julie said. “It goes by really quickly, and it’s very confusing.” The young, articulate, and scorchingly-smart attorney beamed with excitement, smiling broadly and radiating a glowing confidence. In contrast, I stood in her office, feeling self-conscious about my ugly plaid shorts, sweat-soaked tee, and bike shoes.

Julie leaned over the desk, clutched a mouse, and pulled up a file in Windows Media Player. I thought about all the ink that had been spilled about this video—how I was crouched down and speeding; how I made no attempt to stop or avoid the accident; and how the crosswalk wasn’t all that crowded. Anticipation had me almost doubled over in pain. Are the prosecutors and the media right, or is this going to be the key to my exoneration?

I sat in the desk chair, but I was so eager, I barely touched the seat cushion.

On the glowing monitor, I saw a video looking exactly like this:

“Okay, Chris. I’m going to play the video for you. But first, bear with me while I explain what’s going on. It’s not obvious at first.”

“Okay,” I said, anxious to see it in motion.

 

“The dome-shaped camera captured a 360-degree view. The top looks north and east whereas the bottom screen gives a view of the south and the west, right up through the crosswalk where the accident takes place. Unfortunately, the WALK/DON’T WALK signal isn’t visible, so we can’t tell if the pedestrians were crossing lawfully with a WALK symbol or jaywalking against a DON’T WALK.”

“If that weird semicircle of gray pixels weren’t there, I bet we could see the WALK signal,” I pointed out. “It looks like it would be right behind that gray semicircle.”

“Yeah, that might be the case.”

“Do you think they altered the video, trying to hide the WALK indicator?”

“That’s ridiculous!” Ted barked as he stormed into the room, looking dashing in black jeans, a silver dress shirt, and his signature black Pumas. “The DA would get disbarred at best, maybe even charged with obstruction of justice. It would be patently unethical.”

“Oh, hi, Ted. You think that would be unethical?” I asked in mock disbelief. “You mean like the way Gascón made shit up about me and leaked it to the media?”

“What’s done is done, and you know there’s nothing we can do about that,” Ted snapped back, with a hint of a wry smile. Despite his response, I could tell that my sarcasm wasn’t lost on him. “Let’s stay focused on what’s important: the video.”

Julie continued, almost as if she had completed Ted’s thought.

“Nothing happens in the top part of the screen, so just watch the bottom part, where you’ll see three people start to cross…”

Julie continued talking for a bit, but I had stopped listening after she had told me not to watch the top part.

“Are you ready to see it?” she finally asked.

“I’m ready.”

Julie hit the play button, and I caught a glimpse of a light-blue streak going by and then a huge commotion of sorts taking place out of my peripheral vision, as my eyes scanned the verboten top half of the video, looking for clues—for something that would give me a way to see if the pedestrians crossed early. There were definitely no visible WALK signs—but, wait a minute! Is that a traffic light?

“Hold it! Stop it right there!”

She hit stop.

“I’m almost positive I can see a traffic light in the top half of the video!” I pointed to the top left corner. “Can you go back a bit and play it again?”

Julie backed the video up a bit, and I watched, mouth agape, while a traffic signal turned from green to yellow to red. Granted, it was hard to see at first, but one could not argue that the device depicted in the video—the one that turned green to yellow to red and back again while perched conspicuously atop a black post—was anything other than a traffic signal controlling northbound traffic on Castro Street as it crossed Market Street.

Small as it was, I could see it well enough in the video without even magnifying my screen. Thank god for video surveillance, I thought, never having been much of a fan of it in the past. This traffic light is going to save my ass.

As I watched the colors of the light change, I felt a path open up out of this place, this bottomless pit of fear, anger, and consternation—of lies, name-calling, and threats of incarceration—to a happier, more comprehensible reality. In this new reality, the traffic light in the video would—like the DNA evidence that sometimes exonerates a convict—most definitely set me free.

The following still images clearly show the light changing from green to yellow to red, from left to right:

 

 

 

 

Frame #4408                          Frame #4430                          Frame #4431
(last green)                                (first yellow)                             (first red)

Frame #4408 shows the last frame of the green light. Frame #4430 shows the last frame of the yellow light. And finally, frame #4431—the all important first frame of the red light.

I pored over the video, letting it play again and again. I found two other traffic lights—one in the northwest corner and one in the northeast corner, but they were even smaller and it was hard to make out the color of the lights as they changed. The traffic light depicted above—despite its odd positioning in the upper left corner of the video—sat on the southeast corner of the intersection, very close to the planters that separated Naked Guy Plaza from Castro Street. In fact, the only traffic light not visible in the video was the one in the southwest corner, which appeared to be cut off by the gray semicircle of pixels in the center.

Recalling the research I had done months ago, I knew that the lights at Castro and Market all fired on a constant-timed sequence—with a three-and-a-half-second yellow phase and a three-and-a-half-second “all red” phase—and that all the signals atop all the light poles always showed the same color of lights at the same time in the same direction. In other words, if any one of the four towers showed green in the north/south direction, they all showed green in the north/south direction. This, of course, meant that we only needed one traffic light to mark—with an accuracy down to fractions of a second—the very instant at which all the lights turned yellow, then red, and then, three and a half seconds later, the very instant the WALK symbol came on for the pedestrians. Stepping through the video frame by frame and using a little arithmetic, we could pinpoint the exact frame in which each of the lights—including the obscured WALK symbol—changed color.

Simultaneous streams of thoughts came rushing into my head, as if from different directions. Finding the traffic lights in the video creates enormous potential for us. Now that we have a traffic light, we can see, once and for all, what color the light was when I entered the intersection! We can show exactly how many people stepped into the crosswalk early—even how many seconds early. I wanted to get to work on that, starting with the red light, but something else troubled me.

How did the DAs and the police not see the traffic light? It’s the most important piece of information in this entire video, which is supposed to be their damning evidence. How could they possibly have missed it?

I swiveled around to face Ted and Julie, trouble weighing on my mind. “You guys have been following the media coverage. You know what the DA has been telling them: that I ran the red light, that the crosswalk wasn’t crowded, and that the pedestrians had the right of way and crossed with the favor of the light. I’m pretty sure we can use this traffic light to show that every single one of those things isn’t true. But why did they guess and arrive at the wrong conclusions, rather than simply using the light in the video?”

“It’s hard to know for sure, but my guess is that they came up with their conclusions first and then saw only what they wanted to see,” said Ted. “That you were going fast and that you hit Mr. Hui in a crosswalk. They didn’t care to look any further.”

“But, as with any accident, doesn’t fault come down to right of way?” I asked.

“Yes, of course it does, but they’re only looking at the evidence to show that you were at fault, just like you’re only looking at it to show that you weren’t.”

“That’s not right, Ted. You know what? It’s criminal! The traffic light is the key to my innocence. They’ve been sitting on exculpatory evidence this whole time and failing to see it.”

“I don’t think the DAs see it that way.”

“Like hell they don’t!” My blood had reached a steady boil. “Those fuckers want to put me in jail for six years, yet they’re holding my Get Out of Jail Free card right there in their own fucking evidence, and they’re refusing to look at it!”

“Settle down, Chris. Don’t assume their incompetence is malicious. It’s probably just incompetence. Stuff like this happens all the time. Julie and I watched the video at least two dozen times between us, and we didn’t see it either. Let’s take a bio break.”

Ted led me toward the restroom, his stride even and fast—like a runner’s—and even though he was walking, I struggled to keep up in my clunky bike shoes. What I knew of the legal world—from Law & Order and John Grisham novels—didn’t match up with what I was seeing in practice. The DA got behind a podium and held a press conference to tell the world I ran a red light. But he never even observed the traffic light in the video—in his own evidence—to find out whether I did or not! I stared into the mirror, only to find my disheveled hair and sweaty clothing staring back at me. I threw some cold water on my face. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing that the police and the DA hadn’t seen the traffic light.

Maybe this is exactly the break we need to put an end to this nonsense.

CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX

2 July 2012—95 days since the accident

Ted and I rejoined Julie in her office. It was time to tear this video apart and extract everything it had to tell us about the accident. The video was in AVI format, a pseudo-standard that Microsoft invented in the early 1990s. The first step I took was to transfer the file onto my laptop and load it into QuickTime, a tool I knew how to use, at least at some level. I found that the video contained 6.2 frames per second, almost five times fewer frames than the popular standard for TV and movies. This meant we didn’t have much data we could actually use. Julie and I worked on the first task: figuring out where my bike was when the light turned red. Ted hovered over us, also anxious to see what conclusions we could draw, now that we could use the traffic light as a point of reference.

I focused on frames #4430 and #4431, the last frame of yellow and first frame of red, respectively. Now I just had to find the position of my bike—a task that proved harder than I had expected. First off, the camera (shown by a blue dot on the following diagram) was located in the southeast corner of the intersection, putting the northwest corner (where I first entered) at the far end of the camera’s range (shown roughly by a blue polygon). Additionally, the trees and shrubs lining Jane Warner Plaza—ostensibly put there to keep drivers from getting distracted by the naked men who grace it with their presence—also had the side effect of obscuring my position as I entered the intersection.

The dark gray shaded “area of detail” represents the bird’s-eye view of what’s shown in the following captures of frames #4428 through #4431—when I first entered the camera’s field of vision, looking through the trees in the plaza at the north end of the intersection.

To be considered “in” the intersection—for the purpose of defining whether I unlawfully ran the red light or entered lawfully on the yellow—the front wheel of my bike must have broken the invisible plane extending skyward from the limit line before the traffic signals display steady red circles. Put differently, the vehicle code allows vehicles to enter an intersection lawfully on a yellow light—even a very late yellow light. It even allows vehicles to enter lawfully on a light that’s in the process of changing from yellow to red, because a light changing from yellow to red does not meet the “steady circular red signal” criterion. In other words, tie goes to the runner.

It’s a good thing that I have the favor of the tie, I thought, as I used the arrow keys to flip back and forth from frame to frame showing the light changing from yellow to red and back to yellow, back and forth, to and fro. I followed the thirty-odd black and blue pixels that represented me and my bike entering the intersection, going forward and then backward over the white lines faintly visible on the pavement. The very first thing I noticed was that my position, relative to the changing of the light, was a lot closer to the north end of the intersection than I had originally thought. Even though it was very close, it seems I still managed to make it into the intersection before the light changed.

Unfortunately, it was really hard to determine my exact position relative to the white lines on the pavement—the limit line and the top and bottom boundaries of the northern crosswalk—but it was pretty clear that I crossed at least one of them before the signal changed to a steady red, which is all that it takes for my behavior on that day to be considered lawful, at least with respect to the color of the light.

#4428 (yellow)——#4429 (yellow) ———#4430 (yellow) ——#4431 (red)

That said, there are arguments that can be made about whether my behavior—going through a stale yellow light—was safe, “defensive” cycling. Clearly it was not, because there was a collision. But we did have confirmation now that I followed the law when I entered the intersection, so I felt entitled to a little self-righteous indignation.

“Do you guys believe me now?” I asked Ted and Julie.

“I always believed your light was yellow,” said Ted.

“Now let’s see about those pedestrians,” remarked Julie, eager for another challenge.

CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN

2 July 2012—95 days since the accident

Determining if the pedestrians crossed early—when compared to the photo finish of the red light—turned out to be really straightforward. We just needed to count exactly seven whole seconds from the moment the light turned yellow—three and a half seconds for the yellow phase plus three and a half for the “all red”—which would then indicate exactly when the DON’T WALK indicator in their direction would have begun to display WALK. There is a clock embedded in the video, but because the entire incident covered only about three seconds, we needed something more granular to help us with this one. So we decided to count 43.4 frames (6.2 frames/second x seven seconds).

The light first turned yellow at frame #4409. Forty-two frames later—barely one frame (and a bit) before the WALK indicator illuminates—we paused and found this chilling image, frame #4451.

The scene depicted the state of the southern crosswalk right before the indicator changed from DON’T WALK to WALK.

I counted seven people in the crosswalk already—eight if you included the guy north of the northern boundary of the crosswalk—so, eight people moving at different speeds—none of whom should have been anywhere but standing on the sidewalk because they hadn’t received their WALK symbol yet.

Frame #4451 also shows me on my bike and then, from right to left, Mrs. Hui (in pink) and Mr. Hui (in black) crossing from west to east, while a woman crossing from east to west has already covered three-quarters of the length of the crosswalk. This meant that between the westbound walker and the Huis, I had a gap, but it was rapidly closing, which left me with no escape. My memory recalled a crowd of pedestrians closing in on me, yet the “information” leaked by the anonymous source in the DA’s office stated that the crosswalk only had three or four people in it. Crowded is, of course, a subjective term: From my point of view, eight people moving at different speeds in a forty-six-foot-wide space meets or exceeds my definition of the word “crowded.”

So there I was, in the video, facing an impossible situation. I was moving quickly—too quickly to stop safely in such a short distance—though not quickly enough to make it through before the pedestrians converged from the left and the right. And about these pedestrians: What on earth were they doing there?

I understand—and often act upon—the temptation to jaywalk. But these people jaywalked carelessly, without heeding the DON’T WALK symbol and without checking to see if the intersection was clear. Or, if they did check, they certainly didn’t see or hear me. Mr. and Mrs. Hui were trying to catch a bus, but why was that one crosser from the east in such a hurry that she ended up halfway into my lane—75% of the way across the intersection—before the WALK symbol came on?

In a weird touch of tragic irony, the point of impact (frame #4452, below) lined up almost perfectly with the timing of the WALK symbol turning on. In other words, had everyone simply waited for the WALK, I would have cleared the intersection, well on my way toward 18th Street so I could kiss my daughter on the head and send her off to school. Meanwhile, the Huis probably would have boarded the 24 Divisadero bus (shown in the foreground of the video) so they could pick up those eyeglasses and go about their day.

Regarding the Huis: Something else important happened in frame #4451, one frame before impact. The Huis’ legs bend at weird angles in different directions, making it appear that, at the very last instant, they did see or hear me and then did something unpredictable—like lunging in one direction or another. This probably upped the chance of a collision from very high to inevitable.

“Guys, I didn’t stand a chance. That woman from the Castro Theatre side got off the bus and charged across the intersection. She was halfway into my lane when the Huis started crossing—look how long her strides are! She’s speed-walking, for crissake! There was nothing I could have done to avoid her that wouldn’t have resulted in hitting Sutchi or Betty. My yellow light was close, I’ll admit that. But this suicidal crossing dance was the opposite of close! That woman who scurried off the bus and the other people in the crosswalk, including the Huis, who crossed more than two seconds early—they caused this accident, more than anything else.”

I had been hearing the words “avoidable” and “preventable” tossed around in the media for months now, in blogs and in comments, as sidelong condemnations of my actions. Viewing the video footage now, I could see that the people who said this were almost right—the accident most definitely could have been avoided: if the pedestrians had waited for the WALK symbol.

Ted and Julie shared my disbelief in what we were seeing unfold in the video.

Floored by the devil-may-care crossing behavior of these pedestrians, I decided I needed to collect more data points. I recorded the frame number in which each person in the crosswalk started crossing. The first WALK frame lands almost halfway between #4452 and #4453, but I gave pedestrians the benefit of the doubt by saying the WALK sign illuminated at the start of frame #4452. By subtracting the frame at which they entered the crosswalk from #4452 and then dividing by 6.2 (the frame rate), I could calculate how many seconds early each pedestrian crossed.

The above frame, #4452, the first frame in which the WALK symbol appeared, shows the impact, which occurred between the Huis crossing from the west and the tall dark-haired woman crossing from the east, sandwiching me between them. This woman crossed almost fourteen seconds before the WALK indicator turned on. The improbable combination of my entering the intersection on a late yellow and eight jaywalkers crossing my path—while my speed was too fast to stop safely, yet too slow to clear the intersection before the pedestrians converged upon me—proved lethal.

Finally, we noted when east/west vehicle traffic started moving into the intersection; we hypothesized that the start of vehicle traffic movement would fall somewhere between one-half to one-and-a-half seconds after the green lights and WALK symbols appear (which happen at the same time). Sure enough, eight frames (or 1.3 seconds) elapsed before the first east and westbound vehicles started to show signs of forward motion.

The video had already proven incredibly valuable in showing that my light was still yellow when I entered and that eight pedestrians jaywalked, crossing between 0.5 and 13.9 seconds before the WALK indicator turned on, which ended up putting me, the Huis, and the other pedestrians at grave risk—with fatal consequences.

But there was even more that this video had to tell us.

CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT

2 July 2012—95 days since the accident

Thirteen days after the accident, San Francisco Chronicle columnists Phil Matier and Andy Ross said they had consulted with an anonymous “law enforcement source” who claimed to have watched the video—this same video we now had access to. This was the very same video that Inspector Dean Taylor said had been taken from his locked filing cabinet. I had wondered if the leaker might be police captain Denis O’Leary, who had told the TV news that he was going to arrest me, even though I had already agreed to self-surrender. But really, I had no idea who the mole might be. What I did have now was the video.

I had been aching for almost three months to find out if the report from Matier & Ross’s “law enforcement source” had any relation to the evidence on display in the video. It always felt like Matier & Ross sprinkled in tiny specks of truth to make their more outlandish claims just believable enough. While Ted and Julie may have had larger motivations, the first thing I wanted to see was if the information leaked to the press lined up with what was actually on the video, because it certainly didn’t line up with my memory of that morning.

According to Matier & Ross, “The video shows Sutchi Hui of San Bruno and his wife stepping into the intersection at Castro and Market streets just as Chris Bucchere rides in from the north side.”

My calculations had the Huis entering a little over two seconds before the WALK symbol came on. I entered about three and a half seconds before (right at the end of the yellow and the beginning of the “all red”).

Clearly the “law enforcement source” didn’t inspect the video frame by frame because—had he done so—he would have known that the Huis started entering the crosswalk about a second and a half after I entered the intersection. Matier & Ross also didn’t mention the tall woman in my lane, and the man with the bag—or any of the other people crossing east to west, some of whom started crossing more than ten seconds early. Moreover, the video reinforced what I already knew: I had entered lawfully on a late yellow, and the Huis, and a half-dozen other people, all started crossing, willy-nilly, half a second to almost fourteen seconds before they got their WALK symbol.

Matier & Ross also quoted their source as saying, “The biker is going fast and looks like he is hunched down. He hits the victim dead-on. There is never a moment where he looks like he is trying to slow down.”

I don’t want to get too hung up on subjective definitions of “fast,” but after making the yellow light, it was in my best interest to move through the intersection quickly. Was I speeding? I don’t know for sure. I certainly might have been going faster than 25 mph on parts of the descent or while traversing the intersection itself. But my speed—somewhere in the mid-twenties or even in the low thirties—would have been similar to the speed of many cars, trucks, buses, and motorcycles that traverse that intersection every day. Unfortunately for me, no cars passed through the intersection at the same time, leaving no frame of reference to judge my speed.

As for “hunched down:” My road bike, which I was riding that morning, has a set of brifters (a portmanteau of “brake lever” and “shifter”) mounted in the “drops,” which are the lowest, most forward-facing portions of the handlebars. The instant I sensed an emergency situation unfolding before me, I plunged my hands into the drops and wrapped my fingers around both brifters, braking hard—but not so hard that I would lose control of my bike. In doing so, I instinctively shifted my weight back, so I could pull hard on the front brake. Not using my body weight in this way would have probably sent me flying over the handlebars.

With my hands in the drops and my rear-end over the seat, I certainly appeared to be “hunched down.” But this wasn’t because I wanted to go faster—I was crouched down so that I could apply the brakes heavily without losing control of my bike.

This is a perfect example of why it it’s problematic for anonymous law enforcement officials to speak to the media: One, they shouldn’t be talking to the media about an in-progress investigation; two, they have no idea what they’re talking about as it pertains to cycling.

According to Matier & Ross’s source, “The video shows only three or four people in the crosswalk when the collision occurred.”

I counted eight. Technically, though eight people were crossing, only seven did so in a crosswalk, because one person—the gentleman to the right of the man with the bag—was a couple of feet north of the crosswalk. Because he too was heading directly toward my anticipated vector, I would say there were eight people in the crosswalk. That’s twice the number of people the source claimed.

One thing the video did not show was whether the light was red or yellow when I entered the intersection. “The light was out of the camera’s view,” said the source.

This untruth was probably just an oversight. The source probably didn’t see the lights. It doesn’t appear as though the ADAs saw them either.

“He hits the victim dead-on,” the source said. “There is never a moment where he looks like he is trying to slow down.”

My last memory of the accident is as follows: The left side of my body and head slammed into the pavement. In my mind—and based on my injuries—I turned this into a story of how I “laid it down” and “plowed through the crowded crosswalk.” Fewer pharmaceuticals and one less massive blow to the head and I might have said something more like, “I did everything I could to avoid the pedestrians, but in the end, I could not and did not.” Watching the video, it doesn’t look like I “laid it down.”

It does look, however, like I gave it a try. Looking closely at the last four frames before impact (as seen below in chronological order), shows that I made at least two evasive maneuvers to supplement the hard braking I described above.

In the first frame, my bike has an even keel, indicating that I’m going straight. In the second frame, more of my black arm-warmer is showing, indicating that I’m turning to the right, most likely because I had seen the tall woman who crossed from the east and was now walking briskly on a collision course with me. The third frame is perhaps the most telling. In this frame, my body and bike lean sharply to the left, perhaps because I had seen that trying to avoid the tall woman from the east put me on a different collision course, this time with the Huis. This was the last move I remember—sending myself and my bike into the pavement—“laying it down.”

But in the fourth frame, two events happened that I didn’t remember: 1) I pulled up out of my port-side dive, sending me away from the tall woman coming from the east and straight toward Mr. Hui; and 2) what little ability I had to avoid the jaywalking pedestrians became further compromised in that Mr. and Mrs. Hui appear to be lunging, perhaps because they finally did see or hear me—but at this point, it was all too late.

In seeing the video, I realized that my only hope of making it through the intersection accident-free that morning was attempting to squeeze through the closing gap of people by going as quickly as possible. Sadly, all my braking and evasive maneuvers right before impact might have contributed more toward the accident than anything else—except, of course, for the eight pedestrians crossing against a solid DON’T WALK indicator.

I don’t know if it would have been possible to “shoot the gap”—I would have had to do all the physics/math in my head in a fraction of a second and then pull off a miracle. Despite what the papers said, I don’t have the bravado and reckless stupidity to attempt a maneuver like that. Plus, last-minute movements by the Huis threw another wrench into the works.

At this point, Ted, Julie, and I were mentally exhausted. The video would undoubtedly yield more useful information the more we analyzed it, but not now because our heads were spinning in three different directions.

One thing on which we all agreed: It was time to circle the wagons and put together a sound strategy for taking all of these discoveries back to the prosecutors.

CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE

7 July 2012—100 days since the accident

From: Chris Bucchere

To: Ted W. Cassman

Cc: Julie Salamon

Ted and Julie—here is a bit of perspective to help you frame your initial discussions with Omid. I would like to go in with the position that my family and I want a complete dismissal of all charges and a public apology from the DA.

Seven pedestrians, including Mr. and Mrs. Hui, crossed before the walk indicator causing me to wreck my bike while trying to avoid them and rendering me unconscious for at least ten minutes.

From the first article in the media, I was wrongly accused of running a red light and speeding. No mention of the jaywalking was ever made.

Since the accident I have incurred almost $50,000 of expenses (in legal fees and the bail bond), I’ve spent a day a jail during booking and I’ve been hounded by the media, who have printed innumerable false statements by the DA and members of the police department.

All the media attention has caused me to lose my job and now I can’t find another one (for the same reason). My wife, six-year-old daughter, and I have received death threats and have spent thousands of additional dollars on security measures to protect ourselves. To compound this, my wife is now bedridden with a stress-related medical condition as a result of these circumstances.

The permanent damage the DA and the media have done to me and my family will cause continued suffering over the long haul and it’s hard to even anticipate what sort of horrible thing will happen next.

Ever since a post-concussion, drugged-out email of my own composition made its way from my computer to the New York Times, I had made a habit of giving every message one extra read, asking myself, “How would this email fare if it went viral?” It was during the extra read of the above note that I noticed an unintended tone—a tone rife with defiance and resolve—yet also riddled with despair and fear of what was to come. It had the ring of a man not yet broken, but precipitously bent.

It was here at the precipice—at the verge of snapping—that I finally caught a break.

Finally, I could prove my innocence—based on that one traffic light in the video.

The end of this nightmare finally seemed near.


>> Continue to PART VI: The Waiting


For a closer look at the research behind Bikelash, visit the companion GitHub project.