Declaring that "road rage is out of control in our society," a San Mateo County Superior Court judge yesterday sentenced a man to nine months in jail for running over and killing a motorcyclist he had argued with minutes earlier.
Gerald Neal Bowen, 53, who had pleaded no contest in November to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter, tearfully apologized yesterday to the family of Oakland motorcyclist Julius Long, 49, who died on Skyline Drive near Westridge Avenue in Daly City on Christmas Eve, 1999.
"There is no possible way I could convey the sorrow I know this caused to your family," Bowen said to Long's family and friends, who sat on one side of Judge Robert Foiles's Redwood City courtroom, while more than 30 of Bowen's friends and family packed the other side.
"There's not a day that goes by that I do not feel immense sorrow and immense responsibility," Bowen said sobbing. "I am sorry, Mrs. Long."
According to court records, Bowen was following his daughters' car the day of the accident when he saw the two young women exchanging vulgar hand signs with two motorcyclists. Bowen caught up to the bikers at a stop light, where he exchanged words with Long. Some witnesses also reported that Long kicked Bowen's truck.
Witnesses gave somewhat conflicting reports about what happened next, with some accusing Bowen of driving aggressively, even trying to strike Long. Other witnesses said Long was the aggressor, and continued to kick Bowen's truck as they sped down the road, although some said it looked like Long was just trying to keep the truck at a distance.
Long was passing Bowen on the left when the two vehicles collided, and Long's bike slid under Bowen's truck. The full-size, extended cab pickup ran over the bike, then ran over Long, who died at the scene.
The accident was commemorated a week later by a memorial run of 300 bikers, who donned orange arm bands and retraced Long's last ride. Long's family filed a civil action against Bowen, which his insurance company settled for $500,000,
according to his attorney, Jeffry Glenn.
Yesterday, Glenn asked Foiles to sentence his client to community service, citing Bowen's complete lack of a criminal record, his long career with Pacific Bell -- where he was demoted as a result of his arrest and the subsequent suspension of his driver's license -- and his decorated voluntary military service in Vietnam.
"This is a good man who was involved in a terrible, terrible tragedy which was a terrible, terrible accident," Glenn said. Bowen has always denied hitting Long intentionally.
But prosecutors and Kenneth Collins of San Francisco, who said he was riding with Long the day he died, called for a more severe sentence, both to balance Long's death and to send a message to the driving public.
"People who don't ride have to realize that an auto or a truck is a deadly weapon out there," Collins said. "If you swerve your car at someone, it's like taking out a gun and taking a shot."
Foiles agreed, sentencing Bowen to nine months in county jail and three years of supervised probation.
"There can only be one loser when a full-size pickup plays chicken with a motorcycle, and I think that was foreseeable," he said.
Yeah, and if someone in a car is messing with you while you're on your bike, you're just a sitting duck out there.
It seems to me that the best way to deal with these situations is to either get away (if you can), or just plain pull over and deal with the agressor on foot. Chances are, when they see you stop and get off the bike, they'll just go away.
Our society doesn't seem to handle disagreement very well--pulling out the guns (or the cage, in this instance) is the answer to most of these people's problems with each other.
Sounds like murder to me. Nine months is a slap on the hand. Of course here in Texas he would probably be on death row by now, and I am not sure if that is the answer either. But nine months is just crap. I think the community service, for a long period would be pretty good as long as it is related. Something like talking to school groups, Defensive driving classes, things such as that. But only after some serious jail time.
I think that maybe we are losing our grip on reality.
What an horribly inappropriate time of the year to post an article like this. Thanks for helping my family remember the tragic motorcycle vs. car event that killed my younger brother many years a go. Now we really have something to talk about at the table tonight...
Yet another reason to avoid living in any State which is overrun with too-liberal judges. In my book, planning to kill someone and then carrying it out is First Degree Murder. But then California is an example of what happens when you confuse the Justice System with a load of psychobabblers and their excuses.
One advantage of the death penalty is that, while it isn't very effective at deterring 1st time murderers, it at least is very effective against repeat offenders.
Far be it for me to tell you how to grieve, this story reminded me of a cycle vs. car tragedy as well. However, my thoughts were of thanks to the author instead of condemnation. Every time I think of Heather Howard I remember her thirst for life and am again reminded of why I loved her so much.
As for what you objected to, i.e., being reminded of the tragedy, well, not remembering it would be worse. In my humble opinion, of course. Death is the inevitable end of life and we can be thankful if we're living a life that has been worthy of the years we've been given. From what I knew, Heather's life overflowed with richness of experience and laughter.
We all have things to give thanks for, and I am thankful that six years of my life were spent in friendship and in love with an absolutely amazing woman.
Yep, it's all the LIBERALS' fault ain't it? jeezus fuc king christ....
I was just thinking, it's so easy to kill a motorcyclist. All you have to do is say, with a dumb ass shi t eating grin, "I didn't see him, ossifer..." and you're out the door, all charges dropped. Happens all the time, esp. when the perp is some 90 year old who of course has the 'right' to drive despite being nearly blind and deaf...but it's all the LIBERALS' faults, as we know.
As a police officer, I see this kind of thing all the time in court. America does not care about victims. Get it out of your head that we do. We care about the rights of the accused murderers, rapists, assaulters, robbers, and abusers that we call neighbor. This is just another story of how a "wrongfully accused" man is punished for a crime of which he was found guilty.
FYI: guilty beyond a reasonable doubt means that approximately 98% of the population believes that you are guilty of a crime. The 2% (who apparently are in power) want to protect the guilty's rights.
Really? Who else but a "too-liberal" judge would give a person convicted of second degree murder nine effing months? That's what I was commenting on. That and the freaking psychobabblers who infest the judicial system and make all sorts of excuses for criminal conduct.
If you want to turn it into a general indictment of libs, then fine with me.
"If you want to turn it into a general indictment of libs, then fine with me."
He doesn't have to, you already did. I don't know or care what political party affiliation you have or if you are left, right or center. What I do know is you are a narrow and simple minded person trying to address a complex issue in a moronic way.
Try to think outside the box you've put yourself in. Its called tolerance.
We had a sex offender(child rapist) move in the neighborhood. He was registered but the police were not required to inform the public because he was downgraded a level due to a legal foul up. I found out that he was a sex offender and told my wife who told my neighbors. Some neighbors were grateful others wan't us to keep quiet about it (property values etc.). Here is the really interesting point: The sex offenders wife took my wife to court for an antiharrassment order. Fourtunately, we ran into one of the few conservative judges left in Seattle. The judge throw out the case citing the constitution and Megan's law. She scolded the plaintiff that perhaps her husband should of thought of the consequences before he raped the two little girls. But some neighbors were sympathetic, especially the Canadian folks.. Incredible.
I agree with you. This is why I will always be a Republican even though I don't agree with the party on things like school prayer i.e. I believe in seperation of church and state. Liberal suck when it comes to crime
Politically I believe in freedom. A concept which is unimportant in both major parties, no matter their lip service to it.
Get a good dictionary. Look up the word "liberal". Look at the definitions without the capital "L".
Webster's def #5. "Tolerant of the ideas or behavior of others." This is quite different than def #3 "Liberal", which is capitalized and is a political label.
A too-liberal judge is one who is too tolerant of the behavior of others. Letting a murderer free after only 9 months is too liberal. An excessively liberal judge is simply one who excuses criminal behavior. The ones who are all concerned about whether the perp had a bad childhood or just ran out of twinkies. Their Party affiliation is unimportant. Regardless of political leanings it takes an especially stupid or criminally inclined person to not see the long term costs to society of letting people walk away virtually scot free after committing seriously violent acts.
It is judges like these who accept lousy excuses like "I didn't see the motorcycle". These judges have been instrumental in creating an environment where cagers can kill bikers with impunity. I wonder why you defend such an egregious situation.
Try dealing with your own semi-literacy before starting with the accusations of 'simpleminded' or 'moronic'.
According to an artical in the News Tribune a few days ago, the rate of sex offenders repeating their crimes after being in jail/treatment was actually about 20%, though the publics perception is that the rate is around 90%, I guess I wouldn't want them living around me either, but the perception vs. the reality is interesting, I must say though, If I saw a "reformed" offender near my daughters, he wouldn't be walking away in one piece. when it comes to my girls, there is no "second chance"
We were just informing other parents of his record. Most folks were grateful but a few thought we shoudn't be talking about it. Even though his crime, conviction, and sentence is public record. His wife's attitude was interesting she thought we didn't have a right to inform others. She actually wan't the police to arrest my wife arrested for distributing flyers made by the King Co sherriffs dept. It was really amazing to see our Canadian neighbors defend her actions.
There attitude changed of course when they had a little girl. 20% is still to much of chance for me.
O.K., this is a nethercrat's viewpoint. Liberals care about the accused and want to see their rights protected. I think I would like my own rights protected if I were accused of a heinous crime. They also tend to be biased to a socialist environment. (Read between the lines of the Democratic party's manifesto and show some intelligence when you do so.)
Conversely, conservatives would rather see justice in terms of a punishment dealt more severely and with fewer loopholes to allow a truly guilty person to walk free. Reactionaries among this bunch believe in survival of the fittest. Defend yourself or starve. (See above non-PC statement about the Democratic party and now apply it to the Republican party.)
If any of this offends you, grow up and accept your shortcomings.
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