Prosecutor Appealing the Decision to Dismiss Homicide Charge in Cann Case

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A recent photo of the ghost bike memorial to Bobby Cann at the crash site. Photo: John Greenfield

At a packed courtroom hearing this morning, Assistant State’s Attorney Maria Augustus told the judge she has filed an appeal regarding his decision to dismiss reckless homicide charges against the driver who struck and killed cyclist Bobby Cann.

On the evening of May 29, 2013, Cann, 26, was biking from work when Ryne San Hamel, 28, fatally struck him at the intersection of Clybourn Avenue and Larabee Street in Old Town. According to police, San Hamel was driving in excess of 50 mph and had a blood-alcohol content of 0.127, well above the legal limit of 0.08. He was charged with reckless homicide and aggravated DUI, as well as misdemeanor DUI, reckless driving, and failure to stay in the lane.

At a hearing last month, Judge William Hooks dismissed the homicide charge, agreeing with defense attorney Sam Adam Jr. that the wording of the charge in the indictment was too vague for San Hamel’s team to adequately prepare his defense. However, Hooks dismissed the charge “without prejudice,” which means the State’s Attorney can potentially re-indict San Hamel with more specificity in the future. Moreover, the aggravated DUI charge carries a potentially stiffer sentence.

Last week, a staffer from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Victim-Witness Program said today’s hearing would be crucial, and requested that as many people attend as possible, according to a source. Active Transportation Alliance education specialist Jason Jenkins emailed Cann supporters and urged them to show up. He said there was reason to believe a motion to quash the search warrant used by police to have San Hamel’s blood tested for alcohol content might be on the agenda.

“33 advocates showed up this morning, which pretty much filled up the courtroom,” Jenkins told me after today’s hearing. Three of Cann’s family members came in from out of state to attend. “The judge acknowledged the strong turnout. Bobby’s family appreciated it and [Active Trans] did as well.”

At today’s hearing, Augustus told Hooks that the State’s Attorneys Office has filed an appeal of his decision to grant Adam’s motion to dismiss the reckless homicide charge, Jenkins said. The appeal will be heard by the Illinois Appellate Court.

The ASA also told the judge that they have filed a motion to halt all other business relating to the case until the appellate court makes a decision about the homicide charge, according to Jenkins. While there was some discussion of the search warrant issue, the motion to quash the search warrant was not addressed, he said.

There will be another hearing this Thursday morning to determine whether or not the rest of the court proceedings will be frozen until the appellate court makes its decision, according to Jenkins. The motion to quash may also be on the agenda, and it’s possible that there will be testimony from the police officer involved in the procurement and signing of the warrant to draw San Hamel’s blood.

A strong showing from Cann supporters would also be helpful for Thursday’s hearing, Jenkins said. It will take place at 11:30 a.m. at the Cook County criminal courts, 2650 South California, in room 301. Attendees should try to arrive an hour early if possible to allow time to get through security and ensure that they get seats.

Although Jenkins had encouraged bike advocates to bring their helmets into the courtroom today as a show of support, security guards did not allow them to do. “It hasn’t been a problem in the past, but we’re not going to try to argue with the staff,” he said. Instead, Active Trans had people outside the courthouse who collected and stored the helmets during the hearing.

  • Lisa Curcio

    Illinois Appellate Court. There is no Cook County Appellate Court

  • kastigar

    Thanks, John, for your reporting on the hearing.

    There isn’t a lot of other places to get this information.

  • what_eva

    Seems like an odd strategy for the ASA. It was dismissed without prejudice, why not take the charge back to a grand jury and get a new cleaner/clearer indictment?

  • I’ve put in a call to the SA’s office but didn’t hear back today. I’ll update the piece if I hear from them.

  • Andy

    One detail about the BAC level was that it was taken 2 hours after the collision, meaning the BAC was higher during the time of vehicle operation.

  • Eli N

    I don’t think this is noted in the article, but the arresting officer was subpoenaed for Tuesday’s hearing but blew off the subpoena and didn’t show until hours later. Considering CPD’s ongoing pattern of not taking traffic violence seriously I think it is worth noting publicly its cavalier attitude toward this case exemplified by this behavior.

  • rohmen

    If I had to speculate, and that’s all we can really do as I doubt the ASA will disclose why they did it, I’d say the appeal is driven by two things: (1) they want to set a standard that this type of indictment is sufficient to help both here and in future cases, and they feel this is a good case to take the issue up on; and/or (2) they probably feel there is no way to amend the indictment that won’t get thrown out. The wheels of justice move slowly, unfortunately.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

An Update on the Bobby Cann Case

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The family of fallen cyclist Robert “Bobby” Cann flew in from the East Coast to attend a hearing last week in the criminal case against motorist Ryne San Hamel, who allegedly struck Cann while drunk and speeding. At the hearing, the assistant state’s attorney said she plans to have an expert examine San Hamel’s car […]