Lawyers for a sheriff's deputy accused of misdemeanour manslaughter charges for killing two cyclists in northern California in March pleaded not guilty on Monday.
James Council, a deputy with the Santa Clara Country Sheriff's Department, was on patrol on March 9 along the winding Stevens Canyon Road in Cupertino. California Highway Patrol investigators said his patrol vehicle crossed the double yellow line and struck three cyclists climbing the road. The incident killed Matt Peterson, 29, of San Francisco and Kristy Gough, 30, of San Leandro, while the third rider, Christopher Knapp, 20, of Germany, escaped with serious injuries.
Multiple reports of the incident allege that Council said he fell asleep at the wheel. Investigators said they did not find any drugs or alcohol in his system, and that his vehicle's GPS system did not indicate speeding. As such they recommended misdemeanour charges in lieu of more serious felony charges. If convicted Council faces up to two years in prison. He remains on administrative leave from the department.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Council's attorney suggested fatigue may have played a role in the incident, as Council had worked more than 12 hours the day before and was currently 4.5 hours into another 12-hour shift.