San Francisco cyclist pleads not guilty in fatal crash

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 20, 2012 10:51 PM
San Francisco cyclist pleads not guilty in fatal crash
By Emmett BergSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A software developer pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to a charge of vehicular manslaughter in the death of an elderly man he is accused of recklessly plowing into while bicycling downhill through a San Francisco intersection.The case, a rare felony prosecution of a cyclist, comes amid a 71 percent increase in bike traffic in San Francisco in the past five years. It also marks the third instance in which a pedestrian has been killed by a cyclist during the past year in the Bay Area.Chris Bucchere, 36, is accused of speeding downhill through a red light and into an intersection crowded with pedestrians in the city's Castro District on March 29. He ended up striking Sutchi Hui, 71, who was crossing the street with his wife and died of his injuries four days later.Evidence against Bucchere, who is free on $150,000 bond, includes several eyewitnesses and a surveillance video that have helped investigators put his estimated speed at up to 35 miles per hour.A spokeswoman for District Attorney George Gascon's office, Stephanie Ong Stillman, said investigators have evidence Bucchere also ran a number of stop signs on his way downhill to the intersection where the crash occurred.Authorities also suspect Bucchere was the author of an online blog post about the accident in which the cyclist recalls being "too committed" to stop at the traffic light before going through it."I laid it down and just plowed through the crowded crosswalk in the least-populated place I could find," the post said, going on to describe a "river of blood on the asphalt" in the aftermath of the collision.The San Francisco Chronicle said Bucchere had been trying to set a speed record for a popular bike route through that neighborhood, and an electronic monitoring device on his bike provided investigators with some of their evidence against him.Bucchere is due back in court July 27, when the judge will set a date for a preliminary hearing in the case.Stillman said Bucchere is the first bicyclist charged by Gascon with felony vehicular manslaughter, an offense for which prosecutors must show gross negligence and is punishable by up to six years in prison.In March, cyclist Randolph Ang, 23, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter for running down a 67-year-old woman who died a month later. He was sentenced to three years probation and 500 hours of community service.In a more recent accident, a 92-year-old woman was struck and killed by a cyclist in a crosswalk near El Cerrito, east of San Francisco.(This story corrected reason for next court date in paragraph 9 to set date for preliminary hearing)(Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Bill Trott)