LA Road Rage Doc Convicted for Horrific 2008 Cyclist Assault

thompson.jpgDr. Christopher Thompson is taken away in cuffs Monday. Photo: Los Angeles Times

Following a highly-publicized, intensely-followed trial, Christopher Thompson, the physician accused of using his car to seriously injure two cyclists in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles, is behind bars.

Thompson was convicted yesterday of six felony counts: two counts each, according to VeloNews, of assault with a deadly weapon, battery with
serious bodily injury, and reckless driving causing specified
injury and mayhem.

On July 4, 2008, Thompson passed cyclists Ron Peterson and Christian Stoehr as the pair rode through the emergency room surgeon’s upscale neighborhood. Angry after a verbal exchange with the men, Thompson slammed on the brakes of his red Infiniti as Peterson and Stoehr rode behind. Stoehr ended up in front of the car, wounded with a separated shoulder. Peterson hit the rear window, suffering severe facial injuries. Thompson told police on the scene that he was tired of cyclists in his neighborhood and wanted to "teach them a lesson."

At trial, Thompson denied making that statement, claiming that he had been attempting to get photographs of the cyclists, who he said had frightened him. But the jury didn’t buy it, possibly because of Thompson’s history of hostility toward people on bikes. He was also convicted Monday of misdemeanor reckless driving, a charge stemming from a prior encounter with two other cyclists.

Prosecutor Mary Stone urged that Thompson be remanded to jail, saying: "In terms of public safety, there isn’t a cyclist in Los Angeles who would be comfortable if he were out on the streets." Judge Scott Millington apparently agreed, ordering Thompson held without bail. Sentencing is set for December 3. Thompson faces up to 10 years in prison.

Thompson could very well get off with a light sentence. But to have prosecutors, a judge and jury members agree on the heinous nature of this crime, and to deem its non-driving victims worthy of justice, can scarcely be interpreted as anything other than a positive development — one that will hopefully be noticed by law enforcement officials nationwide.

Damien Newton at Streetsblog LA has followed this case since Thompson’s arrest last year. You can catch up on the coverage here.

  • jk

    This case would have meant a lot more if the crazed motorist had said nothing and still been convicted based on his actions. If he had just said “I didn’t see them” he probably would have been acquitted, or never been charged. Rarely do motorists — even the ones trying to hit you on purpose — slow down and tell you they are attempting to injure you.

  • Doug

    If he’s given a lenient sentence or released, proper punishment should also include a suspension of his license for a predetermined period of time. Let this guy get around LA on a bike for a while.

  • Nate Briggs

    I love Doug’s suggestion. A clever sentence would be 10 years suspended license, and the requirement that Mr Thompson ride a bicycle regularly. That – in addition to a financial reimbursement to the cyclists – would be real justice.

  • Glenn

    It’s really that “assault with deadly weapon” that I think is very apt in this and many other situations. All aggressive road rage driving should be considered similarly. Driving aggressively because someone cut you off or somehow impeded your progress is like waiving a gun around at someone. It breaks the peace of civil society and endangers everyone in the vicinity.

  • Glenn

    Nate – I’m not sure that making biking a punishment akin to community service enhances its image with the general public.

  • bb

    You’re asking people to convict their members based on actions they never do ride (ride a bike)
    Until we get some well defined laws, the jury is always going to be tainted.

  • Philly G

    Respect for other human beings. If someone really cared about the safety of their peers, then why would they risk the lives of their peers… to prove a point? As we can see it’s not worth it. I think that some people forget that, for every type of vehicle on the road, there is a human at the controls. I also think that people forget how fragile the human body is.

  • Whoa hey a comment board full of Americans recommending unusual punishments. Who’d have thought?

    Leaning on an anecdote as evidence: This nation is characterized by massive, popular, thorough disrespect for fundamental laws. And it’s a race to the bottom: Why should I respect them when my neighbors and the cops don’t?

    That’d make me a /sucker/.

  • yeah, suspending his license will surely guarantee that he’ll never drive again.

    please.

    california has it’s 3 strikes law. 6 felonies means this guy could be put away for a very long time. please keep us updated on sentencing.

  • mothra

    The hero in this story is Officer Rodriguez. He is the one who charged Thompson with assault with a deadly weapon. Without officers willing to charge drivers who harass cyclists, we are really and truly alone out there. A motorist did exactly the same thing to me with not as serious results (we were moving slowly), but when I called the police and reported the guy to them (I had his license plate number), they shrugged and said “well, officially, you were following too closely if you hit the guy from behind.” Nice.

  • BikeNJohn

    His license to practice medicine should be suspended by the State Licensing Board as well. The Hipocratic Oath obligates him to “Do no harm”.

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