Driver in Bobby Cann Case Hires High-Paid Celebrity Lawyer

Ryne San Hamel

Ryne San Hamel, the driver accused of fatally striking bicyclist Bobby Cann while drunk and speeding, has retained attorney Sam Adam Jr., whose previous clients include ex-governor Rod Blagojevich and R&B star R. Kelly. Adam also served on the defense team for Carnell Fitzpatrick, the driver who intentionally ran over and killed Chicago cyclist Thomas McBride in 1999.

On the evening of May 29, 2013, Cann, 26, was biking from work when San Hamel, 28, struck him at the intersection of Clybourn and Larabee in Old Town. San Hamel was charged with reckless homicide, aggravated DUI, misdemeanor DUI, reckless driving, and failure to stay in the lane.

The Chicago Reader reported that San Hamel comes from a politically connected family from the affluent northwest suburb of Park Ridge. His father William was politically active in the 1970s and ‘80s, managing the successful campaign of Cook County assessor Thomas Tulley, as well as Ted Kennedy’s Illinois campaign in the 1980 presidential race.

In 1985, William San Hamel secured a low-interest loan and bond financing from the state of Illinois to launch the Center for Robotic Technology in Edison Park, the Reader reported. After the school defaulted on the loan, attorney Ron Neville defended him against a state lawsuit to recover the money. In the wake of allegations of insufficient training resources and skeleton staffing at the school, the Illinois Board of Education revoked its license.

Image from the 2000 Cycle Messenger World Championships, which were dedicated to McBride’s memory.

Neville also served as Ryne San Hamel’s original lawyer in the Cann Case. Last weekend, the San Hamel family retained Sam Adam Jr. to represent him, Adam told me. He declined to comment on the case, citing the need for further research.

Adam was last in the news for representing former Governor Rod Blagojevich in his federal corruption trial, but he also has experience representing a driver accused of killing a cyclist. In the early 2000s, he assisted his father Sam Adam Sr. in defending Carnell Fitzpatrick.

On April 26, 1999, Fitzpatrick was driving an SUV on Washington Boulevard in the Austin neighborhood when he nearly collided with Thomas McBride, a bike messenger who was riding downtown to work. After words were exchanged, witnesses said the driver chased the cyclist, intentionally ran him over, and then fled the scene, dragging the bike.

As with the Cann case, many local cyclists attended hearings for the McBride case to show support for the victim’s family. In the end, the jury found Fitzpatrick guilty of first-degree murder. At the sentencing, Sam Adam Sr. told Judge Kenneth Wadas that the deadly crash was an accident, and that Fitzpatrick fled the scene because he panicked, the Tribune reported. Wadas sentenced Fitzpatrick to 45 years in prison.

The next hearing for the Cann case takes place on Thursday, October 30 at 10 a.m, in room 301 of the Cook County courthouse, 26th and California.

  • CL

    He’s entitled to a good lawyer and a vigorous defense. It’s an adversarial process. But I expect that he will be found guilty, in particular because he was drunk. The question is whether he will get an appropriate sentence.

    It’s good that advocates have been attending court — it really makes a difference.

  • i <3 keto

    So now you’re scorning the rights of a defendant?

  • How do you get that from the article text? This is merely an accounting of events.

  • CL

    Talking about the defendant’s rich, connected family and “highly paid celebrity lawyer” does come off as negative, especially on a blog that is strongly for the prosecution (I am too, of course). The article is written in a neutral tone, but how we’re supposed to feel about this is implied… “he has a fancy expensive lawyer” is basically never said positively in the U.S.

  • Coolebra

    The implied feeling is only implied as a result of our national experience with wealth, influence, and court proceedings. As a journalist, it makes sense to provide coverage along those lines. When people are aware, it may even add another dimension of accountability to the process.

    If one has faith in the system, wealth and influence are meaningless in front of a judge. Everyone wants a fair trial and a just outcome.

  • Fred

    Affluenza kills far more Americans than ebola ever will.

  • cjlane

    Except for the “his father is crooked” thing. That’s dirty pool.

    What does the shoddily run “school” (and the defaulted loan) have to do with the drunk kid? Are the sins of the father to be borne by the son?

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    Except it may not be so much the lawyer and family money but the judge and prosecutor that ultimately determine the results of the case.

  • BlueFairlane

    You guys say this is an advocacy blog. We all know it’s an advocacy blog. The tone of the article above is that of an advocacy blog. I’m fine with you saying Sam Adams is a crook being hired to defend a weasel. Just own it.

  • Coolebra

    Justice can be a tangled web.

  • I made no such implication about Sam Adam Jr. He’s a defense attorney doing his job.

  • Coolebra

    I’m not sure this is a fair criticism.

    Influence can be subtle, but it does leave tracks in the Chicago snow – even after the snow has melted the tracks still remain.

    It isn’t about the kid, it’s about the integrity of the process. The kid’s guilt or innocence should be derived from the facts. The process should be transparent and free from inappropriate influence. Highlighting tracks in the snow helps to promote accountability for deciding the case based on the facts.

    I believe that’s the point.

    Again, describing tracks in the snow is little more than descriptive narrative, not something akin to conjuring guilt by association.

  • One reason the school case is relevant is that the same defense attorney who defended William San Hamel against the loan lawsuit was Ryne San Hamel’s original lawyer.

  • BlueFairlane

    Sure thing, John.

  • Please quote a passage from the article that made a negative implication about Sam Adam Jr., rather than simply stating facts.

  • BlueFairlane

    Oh, let’s not be disingenuous. Otherwise, we’re no better than some high-paid celebrity lawyer.

  • Stating the fact that Adam is a high-paid celebrity lawyer is not making a judgment about Adam.

  • BlueFairlane

    Sure thing, John. Most high-paid celebrity lawyers put that on their business cards. Wink wink, nudge nudge.

  • Fred

    You can certainly imply negative things about a person using facts. For instance, stating factually that he previously represented scumbags certainly doesn’t paint him in a positive light.

  • Fibinaccignocchi

    Don’t kid yourself.

  • Dingus

    I think the whole point of this article has been lost in the comments; Bobby Cann was killed, and we should remember that and be behind his family and all others that have experienced, or known, someone who has been taken in similar circumstances. Instead of worrying about what John might or might not have suggested in his writing, why not remember a person (Cann) who clearly brought happiness to the lives he touched?

  • BlueFairlane

    Why not do both? It’s possible to worry about more than one thing.

  • David Altenburg

    Are you kidding? If you go to Sam Adam Jr’s own website, he highlights both R. Kelly and Blagojevich. But for a a journalist to point that out is painting him in a negative light?

  • Dingus

    Oh I agree; I just think, at a certain point, it becomes trivial arguing the semantics of an article that eventually devolves into a he-said/she-said debate. I agree that there is a tone to this article, and perhaps that is the root of this debate that will invariably go nowhere and prove nothing. As you said, it’s an advocacy site, and they will write what they will.

  • BlueFairlane

    Which is the danger of advocates not owning the language they use for advocacy. If instead of defending the pretense of a neutrality Steven had just replied to I-love-kato by saying, “Yeah, well crappy lawyer is crappy”–a sentiment with which most readers would agree–that thread would have 18 fewer comments, and this thread wouldn’t exist.

  • Fred

    He represented scumbags and he’s proud of it! He isn’t painting himself in any better light than John is. Just because HE sees it as a positive doesn’t mean I or the general public do.

  • Fibinaccignocchi

    In the face of hrs of audio of Blago digging his own grave Adams got Blago off of 23 out of 24 charges and R Kelly walked in the face of 13 eye witnesses and video evidence. Those are two huge feathers in his cap as a criminal defense attorney. You are kidding yourself if you think Adams isn’t pleased as punch for people to talk about that.

  • Fibinaccignocchi

    Value judgments aside the point is that he’s an effective criminal defense attorney.

  • BlueFairlane

    Oh, I’m sure Adam loves having Streetsblog paint him in a negative light so the next rich drunk who runs somebody over knows who to call. That doesn’t mean Streetsblog hasn’t painted Adam in a negative light.

  • Fibinaccignocchi

    You’re basically accusing Streetsblog of slander when what they’ve done is factual reporting. The facts may be unsavory, but they are what they are. You’re off the mark and out of line.

  • BlueFairlane

    Please quote a passage from my comments that made a negative implication about Sam Ad … er, Streetsblog, rather than simply stating facts.

    Edit: Eh, never mind. This thread is a flat circle.

  • Fibinaccignocchi

    This is absurd, you last comment accused Streetsblog of painting Adams in a negative light. That’s an opinion, not a fact.

    What they did was state the facts about who Adams has represented which speaks to many things, among them, his formidable skill as a criminal defense attorney. You’re the one drawing the conclusion from that information that Adams is a “crook”. Why “crook” I have no idea, as nowhere was it even remotely implied that Adams has done anything illegal.

    There’s only one person between you and John that has been using words like “crook”, “weasel”, “rich drunk” and “scumbag”. So it’s a little ridiculous for you to be accusing John or Streetsblog of “painting” someone “in a negative light”. But I have actual work to do, enjoy having the last word.

  • BlueFairlane

    Tone is hard.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    No, most of the deals are cut behind closed doors. Unless the family (not the advocates) specifically request this goes to trial, a deal will probably be cut.

    If he does go to trial he may request a bench or a jury trial. And a smart lawyer would request a bench if the judge has a past history of being lenient.

  • Fibinaccignocchi


  • Fibinaccignocchi

    That’s totally incorrect. The family does not determine if the case goes to trial or a plea bargain is reached. If the defense team decides they want to go to trial it goes to trial. The defense chooses the option of a bench or jury trial based on their own calculus.

    If the defense approaches the prosecution with an offer of a plea deal, if the prosecutor is so inclined, they may run the details of a plea bargain by the family to see if that would satisfy them, but ultimately the prosecutor is going to accept or reject a plea deal based on their own internal criteria. That is the about the only input the family may have in a pre-verdict stage (besides any testimony they may be called upon to provide). It’s the State vs the defendant, not the family of the victim vs the defendant. The prosecutor ultimately works for the state, not the family.

    If the defendant is found guilty then at the sentencing phase the family and some members of the public may be granted the opportunity to read an impact statement about how the crime has impacted them which may influence the judges decision when it comes to sentencing. This also is where the presence of members of the community can increase the pressure for a stiffer sentence.

  • Fred

    What’s the title of the post?

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    I don’t disagree too hardily with you.

    But both the defense and the prosecutor are usually aiming for the plea deal. I don’t think his lawyer is going to go for the high profile public trial.

    And I do think the prosecutors do consult with the family during the plea deal. And that deal generally lays out the time to served/probation & fines.

    One of the problems with Illinois is local prosecutors look to make deals with little jail time and high fines in cases of drunk driving. Which I personally believe results in a high rate of recidivism.

    Sam Adams may have a lot of bluster, but he’s also shrewd. He’ll put across his best offer of a plea deal for his defendant because he already knows the result of a public trial may not be as good as the plea. It really up to the prosecutor’s office whether to accept it or not. And that’s where the fault can lie in our justice system. A lousy plea deal or a state’s attorney’s office looking to quickly close the deal often results in poor outcomes.

  • kastigar

    The petition to discourage accepting a plea bargain instead of a criminal trail is atill available:

    You can continue to sign the petition if you haven’t already. Signatures to the petition will still continue to be forwarded to Anita Alverez, the Cook County District Attorney.

  • trufe

    FYI, an opinion cannot be slander

  • Dingus

    Definitely, Steven could have replied in the affirmative that this had tone. However, it is possible he is so used to the way John writes that the overall inflection of the writing we noticed was lost or glossed over (not an excuse, but still a possible explanation). I also think the caveat that this is an advocacy site allows them to write what they want and say, ‘who cares?’, or simply ‘that’s not the tone of this at all’ without any accountability. At the end of the day we choose to come here and read the happenings of the Chicago/national transportation scene, and we can choose to not read if we don’t agree or are frustrated by the ‘reporting’ going on here (which I have, several times). But what I glean from this site is the occurrences and news in the transportation scene and just sift through the bias and formulate my own opinions about this stuff (sometimes I appreciate the perspectives given, sometimes not), which I believe you do as well.

  • Coolebra

    That’s the point:

    The outcome should be a product of evidence and impartiality.

    The reality, however, is that history has taught us that doesn’t always pan out.

    Where money and influence are involved, justice sometimes takes a rather odd meandering path to its conclusion, though it is agreed the conclusion is in the hands of the judicial process.

    As Santayana wrote, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Money and influence in the background of a trial can’t be ignored. At the same time, one can’t assume conspiracy. Being aware increases accountability, as does appearing in court in an observer role.

    Agreed, the outcome should be a product of evidence and impartiality.

  • BlueFairlane

    I think this is how most (though not all) of us read the blog. I know what the biases are, I’m sympathetic to a lot of them, and I can use them to make decisions about what I think is really going on. That’s all fine. I do have certain pet peeves, though, and one of them is a sort of Orwellian misuse and manipulation of language for marketing purposes. A lot of times that makes the language less clear and precise. Sometimes, as in this case, the language itself is so distracting that it diverts attention from the actual point.

    Really, I’m fine with the tone. I’ll take the tone into account, will understand the designed purpose of it, and will read it a certain way. Own it and stand by it, and I’ll respect it. If I think the writer seriously doesn’t realize it’s there, though, I will read the piece a very different way. And really, those are the equations we all apply to everything we read.

  • cjlane

    But he’s just a defense lawyer, doing his job.

    And the “school” loan thing has *exactly nothing* to do with being a drunk driving DB. Were the issue that Ryne defrauded the public in some fashion, sure. Were the ‘old news’ that his father got a slap on the risk for vehicular homicide, maybe.

  • This is an article about Ryne San Hamel’s new lawyer, so it’s relevant to discuss the family history with Ryne San Hamel’s old lawyer, who was also William San Hamel’s attorney.

  • cjlane

    So, that’s the only thing that Neville represented the elder on? Or merely the most salacious?

    Somehow, Sam Adams is merely a defense lawyer doing his job (tho he represents the politically connected), but Neville’s prior representations of the politically connected make the (alleged) actions of those others fair game.

    Vehemently disagree with your hair splitting, John.

  • cjlane

    My issue isn’t with mentioning that Neville represented his father, too, nor that his father has been involved in local politics. Those both seem relevant.

    My issue is with the discussion of the “school” loan–what does *that* have to do with anything, except implying that his father was a cheat and a thief (of the public fisc) and thus we should somehow think less (if at all possible) of the son. “During the 80s, Neville acted as the elder San Hamel’s lawyer” is sufficient to tie it all together, is a factual statement, and doesn’t drag in *irrelevant* matters about the father’s actions.