There’s been much discussion over the last year about whether police and prosecutors in San Francisco are biased against bicyclists. And while the San Francisco Police Department has admitted problems in their investigations of collisions that injure cyclists and pledged to do better (with mixed results), the District Attorney’s Office doesn’t seem have gotten the message.
The cyclist community was appalled last month when District Attorney George Gascon refused to follow SFPD recommendations and file criminal charges against the commercial truck driver who killed cyclist Amelie Le Moullac in August, a high-profile case that highlighted SFPD bias and triggered a series of hearings on the issue at City Hall.
Now, a San Francisco jury has voted overwhelmingly to acquit a cyclist who collided with a pedestrian last year, finding that the collision was clearly accidental and that the cyclist tried to avoid the victim who jaywalked to check the parking meter for her car and then abrupted reversed course and collided with the cyclist.
“The evidence in this case was clear: It was an accident, not a crime,” Deputy Public Defender Tammy Zhu said of her client, 20-year-old John Kewin, who faced up to a year in jail after the DA’s office charged him with reckless driving.
But the jury last week voted 11-1 to acquit Kewin, siding with witnesses who said he tried to avoid the collision over one witness (ironically, a cyclist) who testified that Kewin was riding too fast. So the DA’s office this week decided to drop the charges.
Public Defender’s Office spokesperson Tamara Barak Aparton told us charges should have never been filed in the case: “I don’t think it should have been, it was clearly an accident and not a crime.”
The DA’s Office has refused to file criminal charges against any of the four motorists who killed cyclists in San Francisco in the last year, even in cases where the drivers were making illegal turns across bike lanes and making no efforts to avoid the cyclists.
Does the District Attorney’s Office have a bias against bicyclists? We left messages with two different spokespeople from that office, and we’ll update this post with their replies if and when we hear back.