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sheriff's deputy who plead guilty to killing 2 bicyclists in Cupertino gets demoted

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sheriff's deputy who plead guilty to killing 2 bicyclists in Cupertino gets demoted

Old 06-04-09, 09:39 PM
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sheriff's deputy who plead guilty to killing 2 bicyclists in Cupertino gets demoted

http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_12523465

Santa Clara County sheriff's deputy who killed cyclists demoted

By Tracey Kaplan
Mercury News
Posted: 06/04/2009 06:44:10 PM PDT

The Santa Clara County sheriff's deputy who killed two cyclists after falling asleep at the wheel of his patrol car last year will be demoted from his job as a law enforcement officer and reassigned to a civilian position at about two-thirds the pay.

As a sheriff's "technician,'' James "Tommy'' Council will not be permitted to carry a gun — or drive a patrol car — and will earn a maximum of about $55,600, instead of his current salary of $82,168. Technicians typically serve summonses, provide unarmed court security and catalog evidence.

Council's demotion by Sheriff Laurie Smith offered a modicum of bittersweet satisfaction to the cyclists' friends and relatives, who were incensed that the deputy won't serve time behind bars under a court-ordered deal.

"Keeping him behind the wheel in the sheriff's department would be a slap in the face to my daughter's memory,'' said Karen Clarkson, the mother of one of the victims, Olympic hopeful Kristy Gough. "I'm glad for the sake of public safety that he won't be.''

Council is set to be sentenced later this month on two misdemeanor counts of vehicular manslaughter. He will be required to wear an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet for four months, perform 20 weeks of community service and to pay restitution to the victims' families.

Tragic crash

The second-generation deputy was driving midmorning on a stretch of Stevens Canyon Road on March 8, 2008, when he fell asleep at the wheel, crossed a double yellow line and plowed into a group of elite cyclists on a training ride on the hilly road. The crash killed Gough, 30, and Matt Peterson, 29. Christopher Knapp, 20, suffered two broken limbs but survived.

Sheriff Smith declined to comment on her decision, saying it was a confidential personnel matter. Because the charges are misdemeanors, not felonies, it was up to the sheriff whether to terminate, suspend or reassign Council. In the days following the deaths, Smith had tearfully apologized for the crash, saying her office accepted responsibility.

Council's attorney, Mike Rains, said Council hopes to eventually reapply for his job as a deputy. Council chose to plead guilty, he said, to spare the victims' families a painful trial. There was a good case for acquittal, Rains contended, because Stanford Medical Center found that Council has mild sleep apnea that was exacerbated by a bad cold and fitful sleep the evening before the crash.

"His goal is to once again put on the sheriff's uniform someday,'' Rains said.

But Rains said Council will not exercise his right to appeal Smith's decision, calling it a "fair compromise.'' He also said that Council will not apply to work as an officer in a different department, which he could do because his certification as a peace officer will not lapse for at least a year.

Deeply remorseful

Dave Parrish, one of Peterson's best friends, said that although he feels "a tremendous amount of compassion'' for Council, he firmly supports the demotion.

"It's the right to do,'' Parrish said. "Having him stay around as a deputy would send a message that the county didn't take this incident seriously, given the lightness of the sentence he's getting.''

But the demotion dismayed many of Council's friends and colleagues, who said the popular 29-year-old deputy was not inebriated, has expressed deep remorse and had a 10-year-old sister who was killed in a car accident.

"This kid has the kind of heart and work ethic that most people dream about,'' said Joe Quilici, a close family friend of the Councils. "If people knew this kid like I do they would give him a chance to live his life and continue with his very promising career in law enforcement.''

But Gough's mother, Clarkson, questioned whether there was a double standard at work in Council's case. Council also has a 2001 conviction for his involvement in a speed contest in Los Angeles County. Council, 20 years old at the time, also was charged with two drunken-driving counts: driving while intoxicated and having a blood-alcohol content greater than 0.08 percent, court records show.

In a plea deal, records show, Council was convicted only of street racing. He received 24 months of court probation — a punishment that had ended before he was hired by the sheriff's department.

Liability concerns may continue to haunt Council in Santa Clara County. The county is still negotiating with the injured cyclist and the bereaved families over a financial settlement for their losses, said County Counsel Ann Ravel, adding "right from the beginning, we acknowledged the county was responsible."
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Old 07-07-09, 11:07 AM
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Update:

SAN JOSE, Calif.—Santa Clara County will pay $2.3 million to the parents of one of two bicyclists killed when a sheriff's deputy drove his patrol car into a group of cyclists.
The payment settles a lawsuit by filed by the parents of Matt Peterson. The 29-year-old Peterson and 30-year-old Kristy Gough were killed in March of 2008 when the patrol car driven by Deputy James Council ran into the cyclists as they rode through Cupertino.

County officials are still negotiating with the family of Gough and with a third cyclist who was injured.
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Old 07-07-09, 11:44 AM
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This guy will probably cost the county close to 5 million dollars in lawsuit payouts alone, and they still want to give him a salary....
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Old 07-07-09, 12:02 PM
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Perhaps that's why there're people who work in public sector vs. private sector? My private sector job would fire me and send lawyers after me (and my asset) should I do something that costs the Company more than a million in loss. In the public sector, you get demoted, but can still earn toward your pension, etc. I might be making too light of this situation. Surely, taking two lives (and causing one serious injury) by your own direct actions can not be a light burden to carry for the rest of your life.
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Old 07-07-09, 12:24 PM
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The excuses are also ridiculous too.

If you have sleep apnea, and you're sick... why the hell are you driving a patrol car on a long shift.

It might have been a mistake, but it was poor judgment. Just because there was no malicious intent, does not mean it wasn't his fault. It was his fault.

I think he is a disgrace for publicly exclaiming that he will be re-applying for a position as deputy. If he were truly sorry for what he did, he would not have said this publicly. That is like spitting in someone's face.
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Old 07-07-09, 12:45 PM
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He should have been fired and not allowed to reapply for any public safety job... anywhere, ever.
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Old 07-07-09, 12:52 PM
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You'd also be interested to know that he was not off his initial hiring probation period yet. During the first 18mo. of any LE career you are on probation, meaning you can be fired for ANYTHING, and sometimes nothing at all.
I watched a friend of mine get canned by SJPD because he was late on some reports. Well.. maybe he was, but nobody died.
Again.. nepotism is a powerful tool. Really sucks.. Don't vote for Laurie Smith for anything, as she is the sheriff.. and this was ultimately her call.. to say otherwise is just passing the buck.
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Old 07-07-09, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by uspspro View Post
The excuses are also ridiculous too.

If you have sleep apnea, and you're sick... why the hell are you driving a patrol car on a long shift.
sleep apnea is not narcolepsy. Wikipedia is your friend.
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Old 07-07-09, 01:15 PM
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Originally Posted by uspspro View Post
the excuses are also ridiculous too.

If you have sleep apnea, and you're sick... Why the hell are you driving a patrol car on a long shift.

It might have been a mistake, but it was poor judgment. Just because there was no malicious intent, does not mean it wasn't his fault. It was his fault.

I think he is a disgrace for publicly exclaiming that he will be re-applying for a position as deputy. If he were truly sorry for what he did, he would not have said this publicly. That is like spitting in someone's face.
+1
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Old 07-07-09, 01:17 PM
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Originally Posted by clancy98 View Post
sleep apnea is not narcolepsy. Wikipedia is your friend.
No, but sleep apnea can interrupt a person's sleeping pattern to the point where they are tired during the day.
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Old 07-07-09, 01:18 PM
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Originally Posted by uspspro View Post
The excuses are also ridiculous too.

If you have sleep apnea, and you're sick... why the hell are you driving a patrol car on a long shift.

It might have been a mistake, but it was poor judgment. Just because there was no malicious intent, does not mean it wasn't his fault. It was his fault.

I think he is a disgrace for publicly exclaiming that he will be re-applying for a position as deputy. If he were truly sorry for what he did, he would not have said this publicly. That is like spitting in someone's face.
You'd also be interested to know that he was not off his initial hiring probation period yet. During the first 18mo. of any LE career you are on probation, meaning you can be fired for ANYTHING, and sometimes nothing at all.
I watched a friend of mine get canned by SJPD because he was late on some reports. Well.. maybe he was, but nobody died.
Again.. nepotism is a powerful tool. Really sucks..

+1, but IMO it's worse than that. There are two standards of justice, one for the public and one for cops.

(Sorry for the sloppy editing, can't seem to combine two quotes into one reply.)
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Old 07-07-09, 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by FogVilleLad View Post
(Sorry for the sloppy editing, can't seem to combine two quotes into one reply.)
Check the "multi-quote" box under each post you want to quote, then hit the "Post Reply" button.
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Old 07-07-09, 02:48 PM
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Originally Posted by FogVilleLad View Post
You'd also be interested to know that he was not off his initial hiring probation period yet. During the first 18mo. of any LE career you are on probation, meaning you can be fired for ANYTHING, and sometimes nothing at all.
I watched a friend of mine get canned by SJPD because he was late on some reports. Well.. maybe he was, but nobody died.
Again.. nepotism is a powerful tool. Really sucks..

+1, but IMO it's worse than that. There are two standards of justice, one for the public and one for cops.

(Sorry for the sloppy editing, can't seem to combine two quotes into one reply.)
Splitting hairs, but in this case it's probably more of a "second generation" thing. Still a slap in a face to all the cyclists.
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Old 07-07-09, 03:10 PM
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There will always be 2 standards, and in most cases more then that. Take a look at our wonderful state government.
If any of us performed that badly at our jobs execution might not be so much of a stretch. Not to mention they are getting paid their usual "extra" per diem for being in extended session.

Cops will never arrest other cops (SJPD DUI tampering case, eg). Those who can avoid repsonsibility.. always will.

Having said that, nothing we say here will matter much to the overall situation, although it serves as a platform to vent, anybody wanna start a crit series in Laurie Smiths Neighborhood?
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Old 07-07-09, 03:12 PM
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Old 07-07-09, 03:20 PM
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Originally Posted by x136 View Post
No, but sleep apnea can interrupt a person's sleeping pattern to the point where they are tired during the day.
so anyone who is tired is therefore sick and should not drive?
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Old 07-07-09, 03:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Ty.S View Post
Having said that, nothing we say here will matter much to the overall situation, although it serves as a platform to vent, anybody wanna start a crit series in Laurie Smiths Neighborhood?
Do we have her address? I'm sure my dog could leave a nice opinion of her in her yard...
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Old 07-07-09, 03:31 PM
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Originally Posted by clancy98 View Post
so anyone who is tired is therefore sick and should not drive?
if you KNOW you are tired and can cause harm, just as if you know you are drunk. I know it might be a stretch but it sounds close enough.

I don't think it's fair to just say "tired". There's tired and there's falling asleep.
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Old 07-07-09, 03:51 PM
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Originally Posted by clancy98 View Post
so anyone who is tired ..... should not drive?
Ummm.. yes

If you tired to the point that you are dozing off than yes, it is time to pull over.
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Old 07-07-09, 03:53 PM
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Originally Posted by clancy98 View Post
so anyone who is tired is therefore sick and should not drive?
The driver in this case fell asleep and killed two people. Yeah, maybe he shouldn't have put himself at the command of a two ton vehicle.
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Old 07-07-09, 05:38 PM
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Originally Posted by clancy98 View Post
so anyone who is tired is therefore sick and should not drive?
There was a recent case concerning a gal who fell asleep and crashed. She got jail time because she was supposed to know how tired she was, and that it was dangerous.

She wasn't a cop, who i believe should be held to a higher, not lower, standard.

Case: She was a student. Wreck happened somewhere near Tahoe if I remember correctly.
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Old 07-08-09, 04:11 AM
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Man that is awful. 2.3 million? From what I read he recieved misdemeanor charges of vehicular manslaughter as well, but only probation. I don't see how he could work in any capacity for the government even as a civilian...especially in a position where he is carrying a firearm, and where he has exercised such bad judgement.
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Old 07-08-09, 10:00 AM
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Originally Posted by cccorlew View Post
There was a recent case concerning a gal who fell asleep and crashed. She got jail time because she was supposed to know how tired she was, and that it was dangerous.

She wasn't a cop, who i believe should be held to a higher, not lower, standard.

Case: She was a student. Wreck happened somewhere near Tahoe if I remember correctly.
A friend of mine back in michigan had a car pull out in front of him. No speeding or anything, but lost control and killed a pedestrian. He got 360 days in jail, and he's a graphic designer. I always keep that in mind when I hear crap like this... How could someone negligently operating a vehicle get a slap on the wrist while someone else who had a true accident got almost a year in jail.

Although I can see home confinement in lieu of real jail time - he was a cop after all, I don't want to know what happens to an ex-cop in jail...
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Old 07-08-09, 12:48 PM
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msincredible, thank you.
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Old 07-08-09, 09:00 PM
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Human factors aside, absolute double standard, and it's because it's one of their own who they're prosecuting. If you were to punish your own son/daughter, you wouldn't disown them if they accidentally killed someone while driving tired, right? Well, in law enforcement, the community is like a family, so it'll be hard for us to understand why the double standard. We can only take them to court for all it's worth. The victims' families should pursue all responsible, not just the County.
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