Assault and Battery Case Dismissed in Felony Armed Robbery Plea Deal
10/20/17 – Three assailants, driving fifty miles per hour on a Castro Valley frontage road, assault and batter one of our members, a lone woman cyclist, by launching projectiles at her at a combined speed of over eighty miles per hour. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office performed a quick and thorough investigation, charging all three assailants with felony assault. Two of the assailants are juveniles. Their sentences are to receive counseling. The front passenger was a 21 year old adult who committed felony armed robbery shortly after he assaulted and battered our member.
We served as our member’s advocate because she required anonymity and didn’t have the time or expertise to work through the legal system. We worked for months just to determine the status of the case. Even the Alameda County District Attorney’s clerical staff, who we now know on a first name basis, could not find the case and repeatedly asked us to call back again in a few weeks. We finally learned our case was trapped in the Alameda County District Attorney’s “overflow box” with other low priority cases. We asked in our 2/8/18 post if the assailants would “be emboldened to assault other cyclists in the meantime?” Sadly, the adult went on to commit felony armed robbery.
One month after our update describing the “overflow box” situation, the case went to pretrial. The Alameda County District Attorney decided to combine our assault and battery case with the felony armed robbery case. The defendant plead no contest to felony armed robbery “upon the agreement that the battery case would be dismissed.” His sentence is 3 years probation, 2 months jail (which equated to time served on that date of conviction), a fine, restitution for both the robbery and battery cases, and stay-away orders from the robbery victim and our member.
The Requirement For Victim Anonymity
We asked the Alameda County Deputy District Attorney who handled our case how they can issue a stay-away order when our member required anonymity? He said it was the first he heard that she requested anonymity. Our member stated to law enforcement that she required anonymity from the time officers came to her house to take a statement. How was this not communicated?
The Alameda County Deputy District Attorney said defendants have the right to know their accusers unless the crimes charged are domestic violence, sexual assault or if the victim is a minor. He said “her name was given to the defendant in the legally required manner by which every criminal defendant is entitled to know the names of witnesses who may appear against him.”
In our Glendale assault case precedent the identity of the victim was protected. The Glendale District Attorney told us “the names of the victims were alleged in the complaint with their first name and first letter of their last name only (just like we do in matters involving sexual assaults or minor victims). There is nothing in the court file that contains their full names or identities.”
How can District Attorneys, operating under the same California legal system, have such incredible inconsistencies regarding something as critical as protecting a victim’s identity?
We asked the Alameda County Deputy District Attorney if the defendant was on probation for any other crimes when he assaulted our cyclist? He said they could not share that information because it’s confidential and the defendant has a right to privacy.
We are strong privacy advocates, but it’s ironic that in Alameda County the defendant’s right to privacy is protected but an assault and battery victim’s is not.
Massive Inconsistencies In Our Legal System
Sadly, cyclists wrestle with massive inconsistencies in our legal system as we documented in our 10 Legal Barriers poster and also recently presented at the League of American Bicyclist’s National Bike Summit in Washington D.C.
The cycling community needs to record and remember these incidents and use them as legal precedents. We fought hard to get CHP to stop rejecting cyclists’ incident reports, even when accompanied by irrefutable cyclist video evidence, because they did not “On View” (personally witness) every incident that did not involve a collision. We are sadly not surprised that other police departments still reject cyclists’ incident reports for the very same reason. The Houston Police Department still states that they have to “On View” all incidents not involving a collision.
The recent Governor’s Highway Safety Association report said the number one reason cyclists do not ride is fear of cycling on the road, and that enforcement is key to making our roads safe for cyclists. The Federal Highway Administration research documented that up to 60% of motor vehicle – bicycle collisions resulting in emergency room visits are not reported to police. Cyclists need law enforcement to publicly state their commitment to cycling safety and to provide consistency in law enforcement.
Alameda County has a Climate Change Action Plan that states 60% of Alameda County greenhouse gases come from vehicle emissions. They have made a strong call for mode shift to biking and walking since at least 2005. To have any chance of meeting their mode shift goals they need to make sure that law enforcement – from the CHP to the Sheriff to the District Attorneys to the Judges – provide unambiguous public support for cycling safety and a clear call requesting cyclists’ egregious near miss incident reports using cyclist video evidence.
We are calling for a Enforcing Laws for Cycling Safety Town Hall to respectfully discuss law enforcement’s and our court system’s commitment to cycling safety, lessons we have learned over the years working in Alameda County, and best practices that can be shared and institutionalized. We are waiting to hear if the Alameda County District Attorney accepts our invitation. We will also invite the CHP, the Sheriff, and all cycling safety stakeholders, including local businesses. Study after study have shown that cyclists are good for local businesses. Ensuring cyclists’ safety in traveling to those businesses is critical.
Action: Please join us in calling for law enforcement and our court system’s public commitment to cycling safety by commenting below this post. Please also ask your cycling community members to comment as well. Precedents set anywhere in California can be leveraged by all California cyclists so this is not just about Alameda County.
One thing is certain: if our member did not ride with a camera her assault and battery incident report would probably have been rejected and her assailants would never have been identified.
You can help make our roads safer! Comment below and share this widely. Then, look for the Enforcing Laws for Cycling Safety Town Hall notice to join us live and share your concerns and support!
In addition, please partner with us to get cyclists to ride with cameras, submit their egregious near miss incident reports to our free Incident Management System, and back our work by donating or making a purchase at our store.