Updated 5:52 pm, Thursday, March 7, 2013
The bicyclist who struck and killed a pedestrian in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood last year must stand trial on felony vehicular manslaughter charges, a judge ruled Thursday.
Chris Bucchere cried softly during the final argument of his preliminary hearing when his attorney described him as a good person and a family man who gives back to his community.
Bucchere, a 36-year-old San Francisco resident, was riding his bicycle south on Castro Street during morning rush hour last March 29 when he collided with Sutchi Hui, 71, of San Francisco, who was crossing in the south crosswalk along Market Street with his wife. Hui died of his injuries four days later.
Cassman sought unsuccessfully to have the charge reduced to a misdemeanor.
During the first day of the preliminary hearing Wednesday, prosecutor Omid Talai called several witnesses who described seeing Bucchere speeding through red lights and stop signs before arriving at Market. He did not appear to slow down as he approached the crosswalk, they testified.
Both sides debated, down to the second, the moment when the light turned red and Bucchere entered the intersection. A traffic expert and witness for the prosecution, Michael Mahoney, said his analysis showed the light was red when Bucchere crossed the north crosswalk. The defense disagreed, citing a traffic light that is dimly visible in footage shot by a surveillance camera at the intersection.
The defense also said several pedestrians, including Hui, had entered the crosswalk before the walk sign was illuminated and should have yielded to traffic.
Bucchere “had the right of way,” Cassman said. “The pedestrians did not.”
Cassman also cited Bucchere’s clean criminal and driving records and history of bicycle safety – he taught cycling safety classes, Cassman said – as reasons the judge should reduce the charge.
Cheng did not agree, though he said he hoped the parties would reach a resolution privately before Bucchere is arraigned March 21. He said Bucchere has strong potential to give back to the community and will “carry this mistake the rest of his life.”
District Attorney George Gascón said he was “very pleased” with the judge’s ruling and called Bucchere’s conduct “really egregious.”
“His need for speed … led to the death of a person,” Gascón said.