If You Ever Want to Maim Someone With Your Car, Get a Job at Morgan Stanley

In most of the United States, the general rule about harming people with automobiles goes like this: Stay at the scene, and if you’re sober, you probably won’t be looking at anything more substantial than a moving violation. Recent laws passed in Oregon, New York, and Delaware promise to hold motorists to a higher standard of care (if law enforcement employs the new tools), but one part of the country seems to be taking a step backward when it comes to condoning reckless driving.

Martin Erzinger, Morgan Stanley wealth manager
Martin Erzinger, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney wealth manager. Photo: ##http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/11/rich-vail-fund-manager-gets-off.php##Treehugger##

Over in Vail, Colorado, the new rule seems to be that you don’t even have to stay at the scene, if you’re sufficiently rich and well-connected. Manage a billion dollar portfolio, and you can do whatever the hell you want with your car and get away with no felony charges.

Vail Daily reported last week that Martin Erzinger, a wealth manager for Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and local resident, will not face felony charges stemming from a July 3 collision in which he reportedly ran down New York City physician Steven Milo, causing severe spinal injuries, and drove away. Over Milo’s objections, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert won’t pursue anything stronger than a misdemeanor charge for the hit-and-run. The decision has little to do with justice or deterrence and much to do with money:

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

Hurlbert said Thursday that, in part, this case is about the money.

“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.”

Hurlbert said Erzinger is willing to take responsibility and pay restitution.

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

Blogger Felix Salmon says the decision amounts to Erzinger buying his way out of a felony charge. Over at Cyclelicious, Richard Masoner is calling for a Vail tourism boycott and points to other reactions around the web, including this petition to Hurlbert at Change.org.

  • BicyclesOnly

    Too many prosecutors believe that absent a demonstrable intent to harm or proof of DWI, traffic violence is simple negligence to be addressed by a lawsuit for damages, with no criminal penalties. That this rationale was applied in a hit-and-run case of this seriousness is appalling.

  • Glenn

    If a felony convinction would hurt this well educated rich guy’s job prospects, I’d hate to see what it might do to someone with a poor education who has nothing in the bank.

  • Regardless of how crappy you drive – Hit and Run is unrelated. To leave a person to die in the street is attempted murder. Had the next driver not stopped to render aid, who knows the final outcome.

  • jd

    Just sickening, and what a blatant case of money buying power. This story was on the Huffington Post, and earlier this morning was actually their head story:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/08/martin-erzinger-morgan-stanley-hit-and-run-_n_780294.html

    Glad to see it getting the attention it deserves. I really hope somebody, somehow, changes things and makes sure this guy sees some serious jail time.

  • kit

    Eagle County, which employs mister Hulbert, is about to reap the financial benefits of a huge cycling event, the Quiznos Pro Challenge. Richard from Cyclelicious is boycotting the Vail stage, and there are calls from many for the race organizers to take it off the schedule.

    Whether or not it stays on, it’s crucial the word get out. If the Vail TT stage was a ghost down, it would certainly send a message.

  • Omri

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/08/martin-erzinger-morgan-stanley-hit-and-run-_n_780294.html

    Hulbert is finally speaking on this. The guy is being charged with a felony, but is being offered a plea bargain that will get it removed from his record after some years. The original story implied that the felony charge was off the table (and that therefore the plea bargaining will drive it down further still.) This story is much more reasonable.

  • Herzog

    lostcity at Gawker writes:

    The icing on the failcake is that this is the same DA charging two cyclists with felony criminal impersonation, for switching bib numbers in a bike race. They face 18 months in prison, each:

    http://www.denverlegalview.com/2010/05/colorado-women-face-felony-charges-following-bike-race-swap.shtml

    The fact that he also charged a guy with assault for throwing a snowball at a co-worker and took the case to trial is the bonus failcherry on top:

    http://www.summitdaily.com/article/20071213/NEWS/71213005&parentprofile=search

    original comment:

    http://gawker.com/comment/32113054

  • What, he’s not suing Dr. Milo for the damage to his car?

  • The upper class got the government to build roads and mandate parking when nobody middle class or poorer owned cars. They got to drive on their own expressways and escape the city, leaving everyone else to pay for the social problems caused by their personal infrastructure. And they made a mockery of public education with segregated school districts. The entire suburban automobile dream is basically about rich people running over the poor. It’s not news when it happens more literally.

  • The only thing really unusual about Dr. Milo’s case is that the driver was even charged with a misdemeanor. In many cases, the driver gets to plead down to a mere infraction.

    For example, there was a case in Emeryville, CA involving Patricia Humphrey, an unlicensed driver who ran over and killed cyclist Matthew Sperry. Judge John True III, reduced the charges to an infraction and fined Humphrey only $211.

  • Gargamel Tralfaz

    Let’s make sure we charge this cyclist with Disorderly Conduct if he should come to NYC.

  • Doug G.

    Presumably, this money manager has enough wealth and assets that even if one were to consider his future job prospects, the impact on his life would be minimal. (And, typically, if he’s able to make his clients millions of dollars, they probably won’t care about his criminal record that much.)

    If anything, the prosecutor’s argument is an argument against prosecuting poor people, not wealthy ones, since a poor person would be disproportionately affected by a felony conviction.

    But once you go down the DA’s logic road, you spin out of control. Either he committed a crime or he didn’t. He certainly knew he was guilty of something. How else to explain getting his car towed and repaired instead of calling 911? Sounds like something straight out of a Coen brothers movie.

  • Gary

    Morgan Stanley sponsors a cycling team if I’m not mistaken.

  • v

    Well put, Glenn.

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