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California sheriff faces charges over cyclists' deaths

The California sheriff's deputy whose patrol car ran down three competitive cyclists on March 9, killing two of them, was charged Thursday with two counts of vehicular manslaughter. If found guilty, deputy James Council could receive a jail sentence of up to two years, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The accident happened when Council fell asleep at the wheel of his car and crossed the centre line on Stevens Canyon Road in Cupertino, California. He was four and a half hours into his shift after working over 12 hours the previous day. Matt Peterson, 29, of San Francisco and 30 year-old Kristy Gough of San Leandro were both killed, while 20 year-old German Christopher Knapp suffered a broken arm.

The charges were classified as misdemeanours rather than felonies, as Council had not engaged in serious reckless driving, nor did he have drugs or alcohol in his system. A GPS device in his patrol car and witnesses at the scene confirmed Council was not speeding.

Assistant District Attorney David Tomkins told the newspaper that prosecutors had spent more than two months reaching a decision on the charges, after requesting a sample of Council's blood be re-analysed for traces of over-the-counter and prescription medication. "We wanted to make sure," said Tomkins. "That's why we ordered a more sophisticated drug screening."

Council was charged at the Santa Clara County jail on Thursday and subsequently released on $5000 bail.

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