HAYWARD, CA (BRAIN)—Brian Evitt, the driver of the Ford F-350 pickup that struck and killed cyclist Paul Clark, was sentenced on Tuesday to 100 hours of community service and fined roughly $100. The Alameda County District Attorney accepted the conditions as a plea bargain for a misdemeanor manslaughter charge.
Blair Clark, Paul’s younger brother, was in the courtroom with family and friends for the sentencing. “It was kind of anticlimactic and disheartening,” said Clark, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Smith Optics. “I didn’t want to see the guy with a noose around his neck hanging from the rafters—that wasn’t going to serve anyone—but I also felt the outcome wasn’t to my expectations in terms of what I was hoping for.”
The sentence was issued five years after the head-on collision that killed his brother occurred on Mines Road, a popular cycling route in the foothills east of Livermore. Paul Clark was riding his Specialized road bike around a curve when he was struck by Evitt, coming from the opposite direction.
Clark said in a pretrial hearing two years ago, a judge granted motions that found Evitt guilty of felony manslaughter and hit-and-run. When the case moved to trial, another judge dismissed the felony hit-and-run charge. At that point, the Alameda County District Attorney could still prosecute for felony manslaughter, which requires finding of gross negligence, or intent to disregard human life. The felony charge also requires burden of proof beyond a resonable doubt. In this case, that meant proving the driver crossed over to the wrong side of the road.
“It’s hard to prove because there were no witnesses, even though the physical evidence indicated he was on the wrong side of the road,” Clark said, citing a crankarm that made a spider print in the asphalt one foot from the shoulder on Clark’s side of the road.
“In spite of that evidence, the DA felt if it went to a jury of a bunch of drivers there was a good chance it would either come back hung or come back not guilty, and he would rather plea bargain this,” said Clark, adding that if it was up to the family they would have pursued the case to trial. “My perspective was you’ve taken it this far, I don’t care if you lose, that’s what a trial is for. He wasn’t willing to do that.”
Clark said Evitt, to his credit, spoke at the sentencing, stating that not a day goes by that he doesn’t think about what occurred and the loss of a life. Still, Clark added, he had hoped for a more direct apology.
“At minimum I was hoping he would say, I was in the wrong, and your brother was on his side and I hit him. That he would ask, besides what the court will impose on me, is there anything I can do for your family,” Clark said.
He added that he wished Evitt could affect change on behalf of bicycle safety. While Evitt was not using a cell phone and was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs, Clark suggested he also could be a spokesman for distracted driving. “I would love if he would speak to someone like you or to the greater media, to say here’s what could happen, for all of you on cell phones and texting, be careful,” Clark added, referring to Oprah’s campaign against texting while driving.