When somebody kills while driving drunk, the appropriate prison sentence is years, not days.
We are trying to understand the logic behind a 10-day jail sentence, plus four years of probation, handed down last week to a suburban man who hit and killed bicyclist Robert “Bobby” Cann in Chicago in 2013.
Ten days sends a terrible message in a city that says cyclists have a place on our roads. It’s a brutal message for the community at large.
Prosecutors had sought three to 14 years for the driver, Ryne San Hamel of Park Ridge. His blood-alcohol level was .15, nearly twice the legal limit.
Citing remorse expressed by San Hamel, Cook County Judge William J. Hooks opted for the lenient sentence in accepting a plea deal. The judge also ordered San Hamel to pay $25,000 to cover funeral expenses for the victim.
The judge said defendants deserve long sentences if they are a danger to society, according to DNAinfo Chicago. “This is not one of those cases,” he added.
A 10-day sentence when a man has been killed does nothing to discourage drunken driving. It says bicyclists are second-class citizens.
We don’t doubt San Hamel, 32, is remorseful. He remained at the scene of the accident after fatally striking Cann with his Mercedes-Benz on May 29, 2013. In court, San Hamel said he held the victim’s hand and prayed for him to come back, DNAinfo Chicago reported. The accident occurred after San Hamel had been out celebrating a Cubs victory against the crosstown rival White Sox.
Cann, 26, an avid bicyclist who rode his bike every day to work at Groupon, was heading home from his job when he was struck in the Old Town neighborhood. Prosecutors said the victim had crossed through a red light when he was hit, according to DNAinfo Chicago.
San Hamel had the green light but prosecutors said he was speeding on Larrabee Street at 50 to 60 mph in a 30-mph zone. He hit Cann, who was wearing a helmet, near North Clybourn Avenue.
The deadly accident galvanized the cycling community in Chicago, where bicycle riding has taken off under Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Cann was well-known and well-liked by other cyclists. A section of the street where the accident occurred is now named “Honorary Bobby Cann Way.”
In 2015, the Illinois Department of Transportation installed curb-protected bike lanes along some stretches of Clybourn Avenue.
At the unveiling in October 2013 of the street sign bearing Cann’s name, his mother, Maria, remarked on IDOT’s plan to add the bike lanes. “Bobby told me that biking was very safe,” she told a TV news crew. “But no infrastructure change can make it safe to share the road with intoxicated drivers.” We couldn’t agree more.
The judge in this case blew a chance to make our streets safer for everyone.
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