SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A bicyclist pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter after running down a 71-year-old pedestrian in what San Francisco’s top prosecutor said Tuesday appeared to be the first such conviction of its kind in the nation.
Under the unusual plea deal last week, Chris Bucchere, 37, would not serve any jail time and instead would be sentenced to three years of probation and sentenced to 1,000 hours of community service in the death of Sutchi Hui of San Bruno, District Attorney George Gascon said.
“Our goal is to send a message to cyclists about safety,” Gascón said. “Just because you are riding a bicycle doesn’t mean all bets are off. All of the rules of the road that apply to everyone else apply to you, too.”
A software engineer from San Francisco, Bucchere had been riding recklessly and had run three red lights when he struck Hui as he and his wife crossed a street in the Castro District on March 29, 2012, prosecutors said.
Hui died four days later of injuries from the collision. His wife was not hurt.
Bucchere’s attorney, Ted Cassman, did not immediately return calls seeking comment. Hui’s family has filed a civil suit against Bucchere regarding the fatality.
Gascon said the victim’s family did not want to see Bucchere incarcerated and prosecutors did not think a judge would sentence him to jail time, so they offered probation and community service in the plea deal.
Gascon added that they did not want to risk a possible not guilty verdict at a trial.
“We believe this is the best outcome for this type of case,” he said.
Gascon said his office had done research and didn’t find any other cases in which a prosecutor had obtained a manslaughter conviction against a bicyclist.
“To our knowledge, we believe it is the first in the nation,” he said.
The incident drew widespread attention and criticism after Bucchere, while hospitalized with his injuries, posted his thoughts on the Mission Cycling AM Riders Google group.
Gascon said prosecutors argued during a preliminary hearing in March that the post did not show any remorse, as defense lawyers had argued.
“It gave us a window into his state of mind at the time,” Gascon said.
Bucchere said in the posting that the traffic light was turning yellow as he approached the intersection.
“I was already way too committed to stop … I couldn’t see a line through the crowd and I couldn’t stop, so I laid it down and just plowed through the crowded crosswalk in the least-populated place I could find,” the post said.
It later added, “I hope he ends up OK,” an apparent reference to Hui.
Bucchere is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 16. A Superior Court judge could determine in six months if his conviction can be reduced to a misdemeanor.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.