Anger at dropped felony charges in Colorado hit and run case
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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Anger at dropped felony charges in Colorado hit and run case

by Conal Andrews at 8:20 AM EST   comments
Categories: Injury
High profile job of defendant appears to be reason why lesser charges will be brought

A doctor who suffered serious injuries in a hit and run accident plus the wider cycling community are irate at the decision by a Colorado prosecutor to drop felony charges against the driver who caused the accident on July 3rd. Dr Steven Milo suffered spinal cord injuries, bleeding from his brain and damage to his knee and scapula, and faces ongoing multiple surgeries as a result.

“He will have lifetime pain,” said his attorney Harold Haddon, according to the Vail Daily. “His ability to deal with the physical challenges of his profession — liver transplant surgery — has been seriously jeopardized.”

The driver, 52 year old Martin Joel Erzinger, has admitted causing the accident, but claimed afterwards that he didn’t realise he had hit Milo, who was cycling eastbound on Highway 6, near Eagle. His defence attorneys attempted to claim that he might have unknowingly suffered from sleep apnea.

Erzinger also struck a culvert and kept driving, finally stopping and calling the Mercedes auto assistance to report damage and request his car to be towed.

He didn’t call the police. Instead, and it was another motorist, Steven Lay, who helped the badly injured Milo and called 911.

Despite his actions, the prosecutors have decided not to proceed with felony charges and instead say the case would be pleaded as a misdemeanour. Milo’s prosecution case protested strongly at this.

Much of the furore about the decision stems from District Attorney Mark Hurlbert’s contention that the defendant’s job - a director in private wealth management at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in Denver – would be affected by a felony charge. He manages more than $1 billion in assets, and would have to publicly disclose any felony charge within 30 days.

Milo says that the case “has always been about responsibility, not money,” saying that he primarily wants justice and not compensation.

“Mr. Erzinger struck me, fled and left me for dead on the highway,” he wrote. “Neither his financial prominence nor my financial situation should be factors in your prosecution of this case.”

Hurlbert said otherwise on Thursday “The money has never been a priority for them. It is for us,” Hurlbert said. “Justice in this case includes restitution and the ability to pay it.”

“Felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in Mr. Erzinger's profession, and that entered into it. When you're talking about restitution, you don't want to take away his ability to pay.”

Essentially, that appears to mean if Erzinger had a different profession, that the felony charges could have progressed.

The Vail Daily notes that DA Hurlbert and Milo’s attorney Haddon have clashed before. Hurlbert was the lead prosecutor in the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case, while Haddon was one of the basketball player’s defence attorneys.


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