By Maria L. La Ganga
July 23, 2013, 2:38 p.m.
SAN FRANCISCO – A bicyclist who struck and killed an elderly pedestrian in a busy intersection here has pleaded guilty to felony vehicular manslaughter but will avoid a prison sentence, Dist. Atty. George Gascon said Tuesday.
Chris Bucchere, a 37-year-old software engineer, was heading south on Castro Street on March 29, 2012, at the end of his twice-weekly ride to the Marin Headlands. But when he reached Market Street, the intersection was filled with pedestrians and he allegedly was moving too fast to stop.
He struck Sutchi Hui, 71, who was walking with his wife. Hui was rushed to a hospital, where he died of blunt-force trauma injuries four days later.
In what became a deciding factor in Gascon’s decision to charge Bucchere with a felony instead of a misdemeanor, the cyclist blogged about the incident, saying that he aimed for the least populated spot in the intersection, blasted through and then, “in a nutshell, blammo.”
The plea agreement was reached Thursday, Gascon said, but his office did not make it public at that time out of respect for Hui’s family, which wanted to avoid the media interest generated by the elderly man’s death.
“I believe justice has been served,” Gascon told reporters. “Mr. Bucchere has been held accountable to a level that’s historic in the state. His conduct was egregious. He will be providing 1,000 hours of community service. We hope many of those hours are spent talking about traffic safety.”
Bucchere is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 16. After six months, Gascon said, a judge could reduce the charge to a misdemeanor. Ted Cassman, Bucchere’s attorney, did not respond to a request for comment.
The district attorney said that his office has been in contact with the Hui family since the incident occurred and “we believe the family was satisfied with the work we have done.”
Bucchere blogged that he had no memory of the five minutes after the collision, “but when I came to, I was in a neck brace being loaded into an ambulance. I remember seeing a RIVER of blood on the asphalt, but it wasn’t mine.”
“The moral of this little story” is that everyone should remember to wear a helmet, he wrote before Hui died. The original post, which was scrubbed from the Internet not long afterward, was dedicated to “my late helmet. … May she die knowing that because she committed the ultimate sacrifice, her rider can live on and ride on.”
The crash inflamed an ongoing debate in this bicycle-centric city about just who owns public space. And it underscored the contention of many that bicyclists ignore traffic laws to the detriment of everyone else.
“The goal here is to send a message,” Gascon said about the decision to charge Bucchere with a felony that could have gotten him a maximum of six years in prison. “You have a responsibility. Just because you’re riding a bicycle, not all bets are off. All the rules that apply to everyone else on the road apply to you.”