Charges recommended in fatal California crash

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor There are new developments in the tragic incident in...

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

There are new developments in the tragic incident in Northern California last March that claimed the lives of two cyclists and injured another when a sheriff's police vehicle crossed the center line and struck the group, who were on a training ride. The California Highway Patrol concluded its month-long investigation and filed its to the local district attorney's office that charges be filed against the driver, Sheriff's deputy James Council.

Both Kristy Gough, 30, and Matt Peterson, 29, were killed as a result of the crash, while a third rider, Christopher Knapp, 20, of Germany escaped with non-life threatening injuries.

Nick Muyo, a spokesperson for the Santa Clara County district attorney's office, confirmed with Cyclingnews that the office has the report which would contain any recommendation for charges. The San Jose Mercury News reported that internal sources said the recommendation was for two misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charges against the 27-year-old Council. This could result in a maximum of a two-year prison sentence. The Associated Press reported CHP investigators did not find any evidence of drunken driving, which would carry much more severe penalties.

Multiple news reports revealed that Council had been convicted of a misdemeanor charge involving high-speed street racing in Los Angeles when he was 20. That conviction stemmed from plea bargain in which two drunken-driving counts - driving while intoxicated and having a blood-alcohol content greater than 0.08 percent - were dropped for pleading to the lesser charge. Santa Clara County Sheriff's spokesperson Sgt. Don Morrissey said that one blemish was not enough to disqualify hiring Council.

"He has had that one incident," Morrissey told the Mercury News. "There weren't any other incidents. We look at that as being young and making a mistake, adapting and learning from that mistake and becoming a viable candidate."

While no exact timeline was given on when or if Council would be charged, the process is expected to conclude in the coming weeks. "We are continuing our review of the case, but hope to have something in a week or two," Muyo said.

The Cupertino City Council has approved plans for a memorial plaque to be placed on the accident scene.

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