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ATA Blasts “Outrageously Weak” Cann Sentence, Launches Petition Drive

cyclists visit the “ghost bike” memorial for Bobby Cann at the crash site near Clybourn/Larrabee. Photo: Active Trans

Family and friends of fallen cyclist Bobby Cann, as well as safe streets advocates and bike community members, have voiced frustration with the mere 10-day jail sentence given last Thursday to the driver who killed him in May 2013 while speeding and drunk. However, it’s been unclear what constructive measures can be taken to prevent this kind of injustice from happening again.

This afternoon the Active Transportation Alliance officially came out against what they called the “outrageously weak sentence” against driver Ryne San Hamel. The motorist is a man from a politically connected Park Ridge family who had been arrested behind the wheel twice before for alcohol-related charges, including a DUI, and hired high-priced celebrity defense attorney Sam Adam Jr. to defend him.

The case dragged on for years while the defense tried to get reckless homicide and aggravated DUI charges dismissed on technicalities. San Hamel finally pleaded guilty in exchange for the light sentence, which also included four years probation and $25,000 in restitution. The sentence was handed down by Judge William Hooks.

In response, the transportation advocacy group has launched a petition drive. They’re asking Cann family supporters and Active Trans members to sign a letter to local law enforcement officials and judges calling on them to do more to hold reckless and drunk drivers like San Hamel accountable for their choices. “For every high-profile fatality on our roadways like the Bobby Cann case, there are dozens of additional victims whose names and faces don’t show up in the media,” advocacy director Jim Merrell noted in a blog post. “And typically, the motorist who recklessly killed them escapes with a slap on the wrist.”

“The message the outcome of this case sends is clear: drunk drivers can kill innocent people without fear of being held responsible,” the letter states. “This is unacceptable. We are calling upon Chicago’s law enforcement and judicial leaders to start taking preventable fatalities on our roadways seriously.”

In addition to fair jail sentences, the letter asks officials to address the root causes of drunk and reckless driving by considering alternatives to incarceration like community service, substance abuse treatment, suspension of driving privileges, and driver education. It also calls for making sure law police officer receive proper training so that they can effectively respond to crashes and collect evidence needed to successfully prosecute these cases. In addition, the letter asks officials to support Chicago’s Vision Zero goal of eliminating crash deaths within the next decade.

According to Merrell, 150 people signed the petition within the first half hour it was on line. You can sign the letter here to make it clear that there should never be a such miscarriage of justice after a DUI crash death in our city again.

Update: As of 5 p.m. Tuesday the petition has garnered 400 signatures, according to Merrell.

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