A former emergency room doctor who deliberately hit his brakes so that two bicyclists rammed into his car in a road rage incident was sentenced Friday in a case that sparked international interest among cyclists.
Christopher Thomas Thompson, 60, was sentenced to five years in state prison and had been jailed since his November conviction on charges of assault with a deadly weapon, battery with serious bodily injury, reckless driving and mayhem.
The case prompted a deluge of letters and e-mails from cyclists around the world. About 160 people wrote to support Thompson while more than 270 messages, including some from bicyclists and doctors as far away as China, urged a tough sentence.
"Here in the U.K., the cycling community has a saying that, 'If you want to harm or kill someone, a motor vehicle is the weapon of choice,' " wrote Tony Raven, of Cambridge, England.
The letters were submitted to the court by the prosecutor.
"It is time that motorists learn that they must share the road with people on bicycles and that the courts will view assaults on cyclists by motorists as seriously as other assaults with deadly weapons," Deputy District Attorney Mary Hanlon Stone wrote in court papers.
Prosecutors had sought an eight-year term while Thompson's attorney argued for probation.
Judge Scott T. Millington said he did not take into account the letters and e-mails from bicyclists when considering the sentence. However, the judge said he believed Thompson had not shown remorse during the case.
Not the first time
Prosecutors say Thompson deliberately hit his brakes, causing the bicyclists to hit the back of his Infiniti sedan on July 4, 2008. One rider smashed through the back window, breaking his nose and front teeth. The other crashed to the pavement, separating his shoulder.
At trial, Thompson said that he and other local residents were angry because some bicyclists were ignoring stop signs or riding abreast, impeding cars on a narrow road.
Thompson said several cyclists who were riding side by side had sworn at him and made a rude gesture after he told them to ride single file. The physician said he didn't intend to hurt anyone and only stopped to photograph the riders.
However, a police officer testified that Thompson said he hit the brakes to "teach them a lesson."
Prosecutors said Thompson had braked suddenly in front of bicyclists on two previous occasions but nobody was hurt.