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(06-19) 18:22 PDT SAN JOSE -- A Santa Clara County sheriff's deputy was charged Thursday with two misdemeanor manslaughter charges after he ran down three competitive bicyclists in his patrol car in Cupertino, killing two and injuring the third.

Deputy James Council faces up to two years in county jail if convicted of vehicular manslaughter in the March 9 deaths of Matt Peterson, 29, of San Francisco, and Kristy Gough, 30, of San Leandro.

The deputy has been on administrative leave from the sheriff's office since the crash.

Council crossed the center line on Stevens Canyon Road in Cupertino and struck the three cyclists at 10:25 a.m. on a Sunday, authorities said. Witnesses at the scene said there were no skid marks and that the officer said he had fallen asleep at the wheel.

He was 4 1/2 hours into his shift after working a 12 1/2-hour shift the day before, Council's attorney has said.

Misdemeanor charges, rather than felonies, were warranted because Council was not engaged in serious reckless driving, such as running a stop light, and he did not have drugs or alcohol in his system, Assistant District Attorney David Tomkins said.

A GPS device in Council's patrol car and witnesses indicated that he was not speeding at the time of the crash, Tomkins said.

The California Highway Patrol, which investigated the crash, recommended misdemeanor charges when it forwarded the case to prosecutors in April.

Prosecutors took more than two months to make a charging decision in order to reanalyze a sample of Council's blood at a Pennsylvania lab to look for traces of over-the-counter or prescription medication, Tomkins said.

"We wanted to make sure," Tomkins said. "That's why we ordered a more sophisticated drug screening." The sample was taken about four hours after the crash, he said.

Council was booked into the Santa Clara County jail Thursday and released on $5,000 bail, prosecutors said. His attorney, Mary Sansen, did not return a call seeking comment.

"It's kind of tough. He's a friend of mine and I saw him today," sheriff's Sgt. Don Morrissey said. "We wish him well. We have faith in our system of jurisprudence and that it will treat him fairly."

Anthony Borba, a captain of Gough's Third Pillar Racing Team and a friend of Peterson's, said he was concerned about officers being put behind the wheel after working lengthy shifts.

"My concern is not that they throw this guy in jail," Borba said. "My concern is taking a hard look at who was responsible and whether they were negligent. If drugs and alcohol weren't involved, I think we need to look at the department, his commanding officer and why he was put in a car in that state. It was an entirely avoidable accident if someone is alert and awake."
 

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This is a tough one. It is completely avoidable--- not really an accident at all--- and yet who is to blame? A 12.5 hour work day isn't THAT long. Why is this NOT treated as an impaired driver (ie. drugs or alcohol)?

I'd rather this be treated as a felony. The officer had no business behind the wheel. It was his responsibility to point out his own impairment to his superiors.
 

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a twelve & a half hour day IS too long. For many, that leaves too little time to get the sleep our body needs. Too little sleep will impair our judgement just the same as alcohol will. Unfortunately, too few people understand this issue.
 

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I saw that

That's old news...what is interesting is the Ca Highway Patrol is looking into going to a 3/12 work week. 3 twelve hour shifts with four days off per week. You'd think an incident like this make them have second thoughts...12 hours is way too long for this type of work.
 

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"...Misdemeanor charges, rather than felonies, were warranted because Council was not engaged in serious reckless driving, such as running a stop light, and he did not have drugs or alcohol in his system, Assistant District Attorney David Tomkins said."

Hmm...falling asleep at the wheel, crossing the yellow line and killing two people seems pretty damn serious and reckless to me.

So...if he fell asleep and blew a stoplight it would have been reckless?

Totally predictable outcome though.
 

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I was as saddened to read the new report as anyone. Everytime I hear of another cyclist hurt or killed by a car, it makes me stop and question what I do for fun. I love to ride. I have loved it for 15 years now, and before I learned to drive a car, several years before that.

I think we all want blood in this case. It's apparent that the driver was not impaired by drugs or alcohol didn't run a light, wasn't speeding. Yet, his lack of care killed two pedestrians. If nothing else, this makes the case for a FELONY charge of failing to yield or something akin to that. While some laws do not carry a felony charge with them, when innocent lives are ended due to it, I think the rules should be bent. In the end, that won't happen, and the office will go back to work at some time. It will be something that he will carry with him his whole life, and that's probably the extent of the punishment.

Again, it sucks, and it makes us all sick. I would feel the same way if these were friends of family of my very own. The deputy didn't do all he could to avoid the "accident", and therefore needs some level of punishment that reflects that lack of care. But it probably will not happen within this current judicial system.
 

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MR_GRUMPY said:
"It's kind of tough. He's a friend of mine and I saw him today," sheriff's Sgt. Don Morrissey said. "We wish him well. We have faith in our system of jurisprudence and that it will treat him fairly."

"My concern is not that they throw this guy in jail," Borba said. "My concern is taking a hard look at who was responsible and whether they were negligent. If drugs and alcohol weren't involved, I think we need to look at the department, his commanding officer and why he was put in a car in that state. It was an entirely avoidable accident if someone is alert and awake."
Am I missing something here? Glad there's so much concern for the officer... Not a single metion of the victims or their families. Who gives a Fk, right? Just a couple of guys on bikes.... :idea: :rolleyes: :mad: :mad:
 

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JohnnyTooBad said:
Am I missing something here? Glad there's so much concern for the officer... Not a single metion of the victims or their families. Who gives a Fk, right? Just a couple of guys on bikes.... :idea: :rolleyes: :mad: :mad:
The accident happened months ago and there were numerous stories about the riders at that time.
 

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Dinosaur said:
That's old news...what is interesting is the Ca Highway Patrol is looking into going to a 3/12 work week. 3 twelve hour shifts with four days off per week. You'd think an incident like this make them have second thoughts...12 hours is way too long for this type of work.
Old news? It was released yesterday.

It wasn't the length of the shift that contributed to his drowsiness, he had only been on the road for a few hours. The problem was that he had done a 12 hour shift the previous day. If there was a day off between shifts it would greatly alleviate the fatigue in back to back long days.
 

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I agree this is a tough one due to the lack of drugs or alcohol as contributing factors. However, as pointed out above, is it not the officer's responsibility to judge whether or not he is fit to be behind the wheel? His job is to patrol in a car, if that can't safely be done then he shouldn't have gotten behind the wheel or taken a break. This guy caries a gun and is expected to "protect and serve", yet can't judge when he is too tired to drive? And 12.5 hours is not a long shift... especially for driving around in a car. Sure he has to do more than just drive around, but its not as if he is working on a construction site. This sums it up: "The deputy didn't do all he could to avoid the "accident", and therefore needs some level of punishment that reflects that lack of care"
 

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JohnnyTooBad said:
Am I missing something here? Glad there's so much concern for the officer... Not a single metion of the victims or their families. Who gives a Fk, right? Just a couple of guys on bikes.... :idea: :rolleyes: :mad: :mad:
If that was the whole article in the first post, the failure to publicize views of the cyclists` families falls on the interviewrs/editors- not on the sherrif`s department. I do agree that it comes off pretty stilted, though.
 

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Never heard of a "misdemeanor manslaughter" charge before. What is that? I'm not from CA. I also agree with logansites. 12 hour shifts are not too long. I work 12's and the only reason I get tired is from staying up late after a previous shift. Over here, we flex our time off. If we go, say, 2 hours over because of a late incident, then we come out 2 hours late the next shift. It is a horrible tragedy and my thoughts are with all involved.
 

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For those who think that 12 hour shifts are too long to work, I suggest you do NOT go to a hospital in the near future. Hospital staff (doctors, nurses, etc) routinely work 12- 16 hour days for multiple days in a row and then are on call. This was an accident, a very sad accident. My thoughts still go to the families and those folks who had to witness this accident. I do think he needs to go to jail but not for the accident but for the way he reacted afterwards. If I remember correctly witnesses said he kept saying how HE was ruined and his carreer was over, shows a lack of concern for the victims people involved.
 

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From the layperson/legal research I've done on California Misdemeanor Manslaughter charges versus Felony Manslaughter, the felony is applied when there's gross negligence (and there's a pretty broad range of what constitutes gross negligence). The sentence per Misdemeanor Manslaughter is 1 year prison term, and there are two charges from what I've read, so a max of two years in prison. That term will likely be reduced when this is all settled.

The most difficult part of this for me to digest are what crimes warrant the same amount of prison time here in California. Easy enough; google "california two year prison sentence" for a snapshot.

Guess what the top listed results/crimes are?
- Fraudulent Visa Applications
- Illegal Corporate Kickback charge
- Emailing threatening letters/civil rights violation

That the death of two cyclists would warrant misdemeanor charges and a max two years in prison is absurd to me. It's the real fraud.
 
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