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Man who intentionally ran over Mike Luther found guilty of assault

Posted by on May 24th, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Wayne Thompson.
(Photo: Multnomah County)

Wayne Thompson, the man who intentionally backed up his car over Mike Luther after an argument in a parking lot, was found guilty today.

Here’s more from KPTV:

“An SUV driver who was suspected in a collision that left a bicyclist in critical condition was found guilty Monday of third-degree assault, a lesser charge than what he was facing.

On Monday, a Multnomah County judge found Wayne Thompson not guilty on first and second-degree assault charges… He was convicted instead on the lesser charge. Thompson’s sentencing is set for June 8.”

As we reported back in August 2009, Thompson’s initial charge was first degree assault, a Class A felony. Third-degree assault is a Class C felony.

Luther suffered a serious brain injury in the collision. We last reported on him back in April when his family reached out to the community hoping to get him back on his bike.

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  • Nick V May 24, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    How is this not first-degree assault? Seemed intentional to me……and that guy sure as sugar does not look remorseful.

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  • 151 May 24, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    #1, I suppose it’s not 1st degree assault in the same way that killing a cyclist with a right hook is merely failure to yield.

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  • michael downes May 24, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    ‘A Class A felony is used when police suspect there is an intention to cause serious physical injury to another person by means of a deadly weapon.”

    How does intentionally driving your car over someone not meet the criterion above?

    I am stupefied………

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  • sam May 24, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    Wow… I guess for it to be first-degree assault you have to have built the car yourself, expressly for the purpose of driving it over someone?

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  • matt picio May 24, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    This is emblematic of the problem in society. Let’s leave out the obvious example of a gun or a knife. If Luther had performed the assault with a hammer to the skull, or a nailgun, or a chainsaw, would the judge have decided the same? If Luther had dropped a piano on Wayne Thompson, would that have been 3rd degree?

    This is such a load of bull – there was obvious intent, and any driver is aware that a car is heavy enough to kill someone – the 40,000+ deaths a year and the media attention many of them garner is proof of that. Cars are tools, and like all tools they can be used with intent as deadly weapons. I would really like to know which judge this was, and what the basis of his ruling was.

    Also, for the attorneys out there, why was this a judge and not a jury case? (honest question – I’m not very familiar with Oregon criminal law)

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  • matt picio May 24, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    “The problem in society” meaning the failure of society in general / individuals in particular to recognize that a car like any tool is a weapon when used as such.

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  • Joe May 24, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    sooo true!

    #4 matt picio

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  • Tourbiker May 24, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Use a Gun go to Prison…

    Use a Car go to traffic school.

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  • Andrew May 24, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Without knowing for sure what the facts are in this case, it nevertheless continues a pattern of court decisions and law enforcement policies that provide little or no deterrent to injuring or killing a cyclist. Running over a young woman in a bike lane and killing her is unfortunate but not worthy of prosecution. Right hooking and severely injuring someone in an intersection is OK because the bike lane doesn’t continue through the intersection. I was recently threatened with what I believe to have been a gun because I was in the traffic lane at a red light waiting to go through the intersection and didn’t get off onto the sidewalk when ordered to do so by the motorist behind me. The police declined to do anything because when I called 911 with his license plate they found he lives in the next town. Where I live, bicyclists are never given the right of way in bike lanes at intersections, sometimes in full view of a police officer. I have been told that it is not an enforcement priority.

    While I have no proof, I have to believe that the word gets out and affects people’s behavior. It’s no different than speeding if you don’t think you’ll get a ticket.

    I don’t think this will change unless we get organized and committed to demand change from the Oregon legislature. How much do we care?

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  • Marcus Griffith May 24, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    If the driver deliberately used his multi-ton SUV to cause harm to someone else; how is that material different than if someone swings a baseball bat at someone’s head? I can understand attempting to keep the definition of “deadly weapon” from including everything, but the sheer carnage capacity of a motor vehicle seems to imply that if one uses it as a weapon; there is no reasonable outcome except the victim’s death. Maybe it had more to deal with avoiding Measure 11 sentencing..

    Link to the laws: https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/163.185

    Assault Level Breakdown Chart: http://oregoncrimes.com/assault.htm

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  • Marcus Griffith May 24, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    “andrew”

    Really, you called 9-1-1 and an officer told you that because the driver lived out of town, a deadly threat/brandishing a fire-arm would be no big deal?

    Thats sounds a bit hard to believe; good thing every 9-1-1 call is a public record and is recorded. Care to provide the necessary information for the all-edged incident to be fully explored? I am not saying it didn’t happen, just that it seems a bit out-there, even for Portland standards..

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  • are May 24, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    if as the story seems to imply this was tried to the judge rather than to a jury, i guess it shows that if you are going to assault someone with your car you might consider waiving a jury trial . . .

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  • KWW May 24, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    It’s time the bicycle community started gathering names of DA’s and judges so that they can be voted out of their job. You want to stop this? This is how you stop it.

    As far as I can see, there was no jury – sounds like a plea bargain.
    Could someone get to the bottom of this to see if it was a plea bargain?

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  • Mimi May 24, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    Hi BikePortland community – thank you all for the wonderful support over the last 9 months! Court was difficult – some day I’ll write much about it. I don’t think Thompson told the truth here – and I don’t think Judge Kantor followed proper procedure (he introduced new leading testimony at verdict time). But, nonetheless, at least this piece of the puzzle is over. Justice doesn’t happen in a courtroom – it will come in some other fashion, in some other way. Sentencing is on 6/8; Mike will hopefully be able to speak some words that will bring closure for him. Time to move forward, eh?

    Here’s additional coverage: http://www.koinlocal6.com/content/news/topstories/story/Man-Who-Hit-Portland-Cyclist-Acquitted-of-Serious/MaDgzgHILkedoh24zKGXiA.cspx

    Mimi Luther

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  • are May 24, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    if i am reading the sentencing guidelines grid correctly, http://www.oregon.gov/CJC/GuidelinesGrid.pdf if he has no history he could get as little as sixteen months, with three years’ probation.

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  • suburban May 24, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    Not that such an attack was reasonable but really: What was this parking-lot argument about? Polenta? ’77 Trailblazers? the i-pod?

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  • KWW May 24, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    Mimi, let us know if we can write letters to the court, requesting proper sentencing, and where they should be sent.

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  • Andrew May 24, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    From the article Mimi Luther linked to:

    “It’s expected the driver will get time served and probation.”

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  • chrehn May 24, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    This is just plain wrong. One guy’s life will never be the same and the guy who caused the injuries get’s a slap on the wrist.

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  • Hart May 25, 2010 at 1:51 am

    Today I biked through an intersection at SE 39th, straight thru, I had the green. A car in the opposing lane decided to turn left without signaling directly in front of me and slammed on its breaks at the last second, and I swerved to avoid the vehicle. As I rode past he screamed “F*ck you, fagg*t!”

    This sort of aggression happens every day with people trapped in their cages. Normal people turn into sociopaths who do not view the things around them as real, all that exists is their tiny metal world inside that car or truck, and anything in their way better get out of the way or they’ll be punished.

    Just because we live in Portland does not protect us in the least from people who willfully use their automobile as a weapon of intimidation and violence.

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  • She May 25, 2010 at 7:04 am

    How many cyclists at a sentancing does it take to get a reasonable sentance for this horrible act of agression?

    Mimi, how do you fee about a bunch of the cycling community showing up and protesting this decision?

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  • Spiffy May 25, 2010 at 7:33 am

    it’s good to see a coward like this having to own up to his actions… it used to be that people were tough and had honor and if you had a disagreement you settled it like men… now it’s always about who has the biggest weapon and catches you off-guard first… he may never know what it’s like to be scared for your life and come out of it with a brain injury but at least he’ll have reason to consider it… it’s unfortunate about the lack of evidence/witnesses that they couldn’t get him on a more serious charge… at least Mike is recovering…

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  • kitten May 25, 2010 at 8:34 am

    can we remake Death Wish (1974) with bikes please?

    This is just plain sickening.

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  • matt picio May 25, 2010 at 8:53 am

    In regards to my post #5, I accidentally switched names. (majorly embarassed here)

    The basic point holds, though. If Wayne Thompson had dropped a piano on Mike Luther, would that have constituted 1st degree assault?

    Mimi (#14) – Thanks for posting, best wishes to you and Mike.

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  • Steve Brown May 25, 2010 at 8:53 am

    You can do just about what you want to do in a car to anyone except, Portland Police, Kendra James.
    (did i get the name right on the woman who was shot and killed for backing up on a cop).

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  • kiwimunki May 25, 2010 at 9:20 am

    Someone said that the best way to kill someone and get away with it is to do it with your car. After this BS, I’d believe it.

    Any mention of whether Thompson gets his license taken away for life? Being forced to see the road from a different perspective (and having his big, manly SUV toy taken away from him) might help alleviate some of his homicidal road rage – or at least make him a little less deadly.

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  • Vance Longwell May 25, 2010 at 9:20 am

    It’s not very often I get minutes in the actual game. As such, and without reading much, I must say I agree wholeheartedly with the general sentiment in-thread. Upon this, apparently, we all agree. I’m especially angry about this. I’m usually frustrated with people here and their lack of capability on public highways. In this though there isn’t a defensive-driving technique, there isn’t a piece of safety equipment, no level of care can be taken, to avoid being victimized by a maniac. As such, I find this crime particularly egregious.

    I’m ignorant of the ways of the court. Who makes such a reduction? Is this the jury, or did the prosecutors lower the charge prior to trial? Can the judge do this? If a jury did this then I’m interested to know why. If prosecutors or a judge did this I’m interested in imposing penalties for doing so.

    I found this link to a source on sentencing options for a Class C felony in Oregon. Not real sure about the credibility of the source, but in my opinion, it looks legitimate. I was interested in the outcome of sentencing, but now that I see this horrible man will receive nothing but a light tap on the wrist, regardless, I’m only further outraged.

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  • Snarky May 25, 2010 at 9:29 am

    The KOIN story refers to Wayne Thompson intentionally using his motor vehicle as a weapon as an “accident”. This was no accident. Justice not served.

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  • John May 25, 2010 at 10:02 am

    I’d rather be attacked by a knife than an SUV.

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  • Opus the Poet May 25, 2010 at 10:48 am

    I would rather be shot at than have someone hit me with any kind of motor vehicle. Using states from the CDC and FBI, you have a 5% chance of getting hit if you are in range of a gunfight every time a trigger is pulled, and a 9% chance of dying if you get hit. Multiplying the 2 stats out gives a 0.45% chance of dying every time someone pulls a trigger in range of you.

    Now contrast that to motor vehicles, where if you are hit at 20 MPH you have a 5% chance of dying eventually, 30 MPH raises that to 50%, and by 60 MPH they start measuring survival in lives per million wrecks just to get whole numbers.

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  • q'Tzal May 25, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    To news media:
    This was a motor vehicle collision not a motor vehicle accident.
    “Collision” describes what happened in any situation where a motor vehicle impacts anything. It does so in a manner that does not place blame on any party involved.
    “Accident” by its nature implies that the act of impact, crashing, injuring or killing with a motor vehicle was not the fault of the driver in any way. “It was an accident, ooops.”. Calling these collisions subconsciously places the blame on the victim deservedly or not.

    Stop it, stop it, stop it!

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  • El Biciclero May 25, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    I can’t help but think this is partially the result of the near-universal Sympathy Among Drivers. It goes something like this:

    “Who among us hasn’t (choose one):

    * Drifted out of our lane due to inattention
    * Failed to look for pedestrians or cyclists and hit (or almost hit) one
    * Exceeded the speed limit or otherwise driven dangerously because we were in a hurry
    * Driven in one direction while looking in the other
    * Wished we could run over some annoying cyclist or pedestrian

    Could this not easily happen to any one of us some day? If we are harsh with one driver, it may set a precedent of harshness that will one day come back to bite all drivers. Therefore, we must be as lenient as possible so that when it is our turn to stand before the judge as a result of a mere momentary lapse in judgment, the hammer will not fall on us.”

    I have to think that so many drivers have come so close to hitting people so many times, that they share an uneasy feeling that it is “only a matter of time” before they will actually make contact, and they do NOT want harsh penalties in place for when they do.

    I believe this is also the reason why we go to such great lengths to blame the china instead of the bull, and have the mindset that if the china gets broken, it wasn’t wrapped well enough. It is quite similar to the “boys will be boys” mentality: poor drivers, they can’t help it!

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  • Stigx3 May 25, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    In other news:
    http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/crime/article/813872–prosecutor-why-charges-against-bryant-were-dropped?bn=1

    http://www.blogto.com/news_flash/2010/05/charges_dropped_in_michael_bryant_case/

    Crazy stuff. If a motorist hit my back wheel 1-2 times I’d be pretty angry too. And somehow that isn’t provocation and Sheppard was determined to be the aggressor. Madness.

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  • chasingbackon May 25, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    Sickened by the possibility i can be killed or maimed by a motor vehicle and it loses the associated penalties attached to the same act done with almost any other inanimate object.

    i get the feeling some kind of bureaucratic agreement occurred to reduce the charges, when they should have been increased. The person should never have a drivers license, in oregon, any way, for the rest of his life. Anybody know of case specifics.

    All this proves once again, we all need to ride 120% defensively and pay freaking attention, in addition to being careful who we provoke.

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  • Cecil May 25, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Just a very brief and very general lawyer comment in response to a couple of questions that were voiced above:

    First, it is clear from the article this was not a plea bargain or “bureaucratic agreement” to reduce the charges. If this had been a plea, the only thing that would have happened is that the defendant would have pleaded guilty to an agreed upon charge – there would have been no need for the court to address the other charges.

    Second, yes, it possible to waive your right to a jury and be tried by the court. When the issue involves drawing fine legal lines between grades of offense, a defendant may prefer the court to make the call. Indeed, sometimes a defendant may even stipulate to the facts upon which the court will base its decision. I have no idea whether this particular trial was on stipulated facts – I am just noting that some bench trials are.

    Third, according to the news report, the court’s decision to acquit on the greater charges was based on the court’s determination that the state failed to prove that Luther acted with the requisite intent (or mens rea, as we show offs like to say), and not on a general idea that a car is not a dangerous weapon. Indeed, in Oregon it is settled law that a vehicle may be a dangerous weapon. State v. Hill, 298 Or 270, 692 P2d 100 (1984) (Automobile operated “recklessly,” as defined by ORS 161.085, can be “dangerous weapon” for purposes of assault statute). Intent is always very difficult to prove, and almost always involves making a series of inferences from circumstantial evidence. Without a transcript, I have no idea what evidence the state offered to prove intent.

    Fourth, if Thompson dropped a piano on Luther and the state could prove that he had intentionally dropped it and that he had done so with the intent to injure Luther, and Luther was seriohsly injured, then the level of assault for which Thompson could be convicted would come down to whether the state could prove that a piano, as it was deployed in this hypothetical, was a “dangerous weapon” as defined by ORS 161.015(1) (a “device, instrument, material or substance which under the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used or threatened to be used, is readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury). Frankly, I do not suggest anyone test the hypo to find out.

    Finally, I know Judge Kantor and, as anyone who knows him will tell you, he is exceedingly intelligent and fair, and not likely to base a decision on bias for drivers or against cyclists.

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  • matt picio May 25, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    Cecil – thanks for answering my hypothetical scenario. :-)

    Presumably a hammer or a chainsaw would still meet that test, as they are somewhat more portable than a Baby Grand.

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  • KWW May 25, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    #35, I’ll take your word on Judge Kantor for a while, but honestly, this guy supposedly slammed his vehicle in reverse, hit the bicyclist and went over a curb in his aggression. What more evidence is needed? Weren’t there witnesses? I seem to recall there were.

    Who was the DA on the case and why didn’t they have enough of the burden of proof?

    There are more questions than answers. It would be nice if bikeportland can get more on this.

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  • Cecil May 25, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    KWW – without knowing what evidence was presented, there is no way to know “what more evidence was needed,” but proving anything beyond a reasonable doubt is a high threshold to cross, and if the court had a reasonable doubt as to Luther’s intent, it was obligated to acquit. I note that you yourself used the term “supposedly.” In most cases, “supposedly” is not equal to “beyond a reasonable doubt.” What the police suspect and what the state can prove are not always the same thing.

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  • wsbob May 25, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    Cecil…the story you provided the link to is worth reading. Always frustrating that such stories are often reported, as this one is, with so few details.

    Interesting how the driver (I’m presuming she was one even though the article doesn’t say specifically that she was.)…”… insisted that she safely followed traffic laws when attempting to make the left turn …”, despite the fact that the DA apparently was able to prove to the jury that the driver “… did not stop before the stop sign at Little Uvas Road, she did not look both ways before entering the intersection, and she failed to yield the right-of-way…”.

    Lots of evidence probably helped.

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  • Marcus Griffith May 26, 2010 at 2:13 am

    wsbob:
    The article identifies the driver’s gender by 1) name, 2) picture of driver, 3) referring to driver as “she”… exactly what more do you want? Her gynecologist to go on the record? Does her gender even matter? For the record, per the article, the DA pressing the charge and the law enforcement officer providing expert testimony are also women.

    More noteworthy is that the collision occurred in October 2008 and the maximum jail time is one year.

    Driving a motor vehicle has a thin threshold between safe and dangerous operation. Far too many people misunderstand–or ignore–the sheer carnage capacity of motor vehicle.. its sad.

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  • Velophile in Exile May 26, 2010 at 8:31 am

    Bottom line here is that KWW (#37) is right to be asking questions of the DA. S/he is responsible for representing the State’s interest in seeing crimes prosecuted and it is still not clear here why a higher crime was not tried. For those of you who want justice here, that is the person who should be answering questions.

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  • wsbob May 26, 2010 at 9:20 am

    Marcus #41…you don’t have to be a sophomoric smart mouth about it…but since you asked…I would have liked the Morgan Hill Times story to have included more information about how the DA was able to prove the defendants guilt to the jury; what were some of the 40 pieces of evidence…what testimony there may have been in terms of witnesses, etc..

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  • Velophile in Exile May 26, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Bob if you spent a fraction of the time researching other things as you do writing your own snarky and pedantic comments here on bikeportland, you might get some of the answers you so earnestly seek.

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  • wsbob May 26, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Velo…#44, you’re not obligated to, so why are you reading my comments if you don’t like them?

    If you really feel they’re ‘pedantic: (Marked by a narrow focus on or display of learning especially its trivial aspect.)’, maybe that’s a cue for you and others following stories and comments here on bikeportland, to respond with something more substantial, based on yours and their knowledge and research. Instead we too often have retorts like the one you’ve posted in comment #44.

    If Marcus wanted to know what more I wanted from the Morgan Hill Times story in terms of information about the case, all he needed to do was ask…politely. There wasn’t any need to introduce some offensive sexual slant into his question.

    In fact, I wonder if Marcus even thought about what I’d written and was asking about in comment #40. This just now occurred to me or I’d have addressed that in the earlier comment. He seems to think I had questions about her gender. Not so. That’s one of the details the story clearly establishes.

    I realize the story may have been from just a small town newspaper with modest staff and resources, but still…a couple hundred words more about how the DA was able to prove this case, when strong or incontrovertible evidence was probably required for it to be accomplished, would have been welcome.

    Note Cecil’s comment #35.

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  • Mimi Luther May 26, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Hi all. Just a couple of clarifications. Sitting in a courtroom, with at least a little understanding of the procedures of law AND hearing the particulars of the case is very different than reading the tidbits here and in other outlets. Thompson was charged with Assault 1 and multiple Assualt 2s. He was convicted of Assault 3 (lesser included charge). All he and his defense attorney had to do was convince one judge (reputed to be quite the legal mind) of reasonable doubt. I think that is very different than having to convict 12 regular folks. What Judge Kantor heard and how he processed that information is a horse of a different color compared to the likely processes of a jury. Reasonable doubt to a master of law is different than to a (mostly?) lay group of 12 humans.

    It was Thompson in the car, my brother (Mike Luther) on the bicycle….some folks on the comments section are confusing the two.

    I know what I believe happened. I don’t think the truth gets told in a courtroom – it gets molded for the benefit of the accused. Alas.

    As for a strong showing at sentencing, I plan to be there, as will my brother. It might be a nice gesture to show him some support. :)

    With ongoing thanks for all the support…

    Mimi Luther

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  • NecroPsyChroNauTron May 26, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    I sometimes disagree with the ranting of some that “blah cars are weapons blah”

    But in this case, it’s pretty clear. He used it with intent to harm. He used it as a weapon.
    He should get the harshest penalty for attempted manslaughter.

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  • 007 May 27, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    Remember the judge’s name: Henry Cantor, come election time.

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  • Barney May 28, 2010 at 11:01 am

    While touring country roads and state highways, I’ve had people throw stuff at me and intentionally try to run me off the road. I think that a lot of drivers do not consider how badly they can hurt someone on a bike. Maybe that seems an outrageous statement, but why else would people try to run someone off the road? I can’t believe that those people spend other parts of their day trying to hurt people in other ways. I can’t speak for Mr. Thompson, but I think it’s quite possible that he really didn’t consider how badly he could hurt somebody. I think the judgment in this case is a travesty, but I’m not sure heavier sentencing alone is going to change incidents like this. There needs to be a a widespread cultural shift about whether bikers are worthy of the same respect and protection from needless collisions as pedestrians.

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  • Mimi Luther June 7, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    The sentencing hearing for Wayne Thompson is tomorrow, 6/8, in Judge Kantor’s courtroom at 3:30. Please, if you’re free, do show up…. My brother is, I think, finding a new place with this, a starting point from which to move forward.

    My appreciation to all of you who have stood by Mike and his family for the last months…

    Mike plans to speak, as is his right. He’s an amazing guy. Women like me are so lucky to have brothers like him…

    Mimi

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  • Bjorn June 9, 2010 at 7:39 am

    Sure would be nice if when he is caught driving with that suspended license, that there would be some kind of penalty besides a slap on the wrist. We all know that he probably is driving already.

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  • wsbob June 9, 2010 at 10:15 am

    Mimi…I admire you and your brother for keeping up the good fight, and Mike also, for having the integrity of character to forgive the guy that hit him.

    The O story reports some interesting things, such as how Thompson claims “…he never intended to strike Michael F. Luther…”, and how investigators determined he was driving in reverse through the parking lot for 250 feet at 15-29mph. Thelma and Louise did that in the movie of the same name.

    Conscious or not, a statement is made by the use of the mug shot of Thompson chosen by the O chose to accompany their story. Compare it to the sober faced one above accompanying this bikeportland story. Thompson’s face in the O story has that big grin.

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