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Driver in O’Donnell fatality pleads no contest

Posted by on June 30th, 2007 at 11:35 pm

From the Willamette Week:

“Jennifer Knight pleaded no contest Wednesday to three citations she received in rural Washington County on June 9. At 12:49 pm that day, she hit and killed bicyclist Timothy O’Donnell, 66, of Aloha.

Knight, 26, received a fine of over $1,000 for driving with a suspended license, careless driving and passing in a no passing zone. Despite the Washington County Sheriff’s Office finding Knight at fault, she received no jail time. Knight will pay her fine in monthly installments.”

Read this post for more on the O’Donnell tragedy.

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Jeff
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Jeff

aargh!

wsbob
Guest

I put the following link to a Beaverton Valley Times story about Timothy O\’Donnell in BikePortland.org\’s \”Fatal crash in Washington County\” article comment 146, but I\’ll put it here also for those that want to read it:

http://www.beavertonvalleytimes.com/news/story.php?story_id=118184163316156400

sh
Guest
sh

Out of curiosity, is there other recourse for O\’Donnell\’s family through civil courts? It\’s simply beyond shameful that someone this glaringly negligent, who killed someone through her recklessness, walks away with a $1000 fine, which (and this is somehow the icing on the cake) she will pay in monthly installments… (glad Wash. County was able to alleviate even this slightest of inconveniences imposed on a killah).

Ken
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Ken

Does anyone know if Jennifer Knight has made any explanation or any statement to the public, or family and friends of Tim regarding her actions that day?

Betty's Mom
Guest
Betty's Mom

Sounds like road kill. For a thousand bucks you too can have a cyclist to hang on your wall. Mounted for fifty extra bucks – no fear, we take monthly payments. Do I hear any higher bids?

Mr. Viddy
Guest

I know someone who bounced a $30 check once. They were arrested, spent a night in jail and released. Then when they went to court they were sentenced to two additional days in jail and fines and court costs totaled almost $2000. This was here in Washington County.

Kill a cyclist though and you receive no jail time. Very interesting how the priorities are in this county.

Marc Rose
Guest
Marc Rose

Haven\’t many cyclists gotten tickets of over $240 for rolling through stop signs, especially during recent stings? And this woman was fined only $1000 for doing all these things while driving with a suspended license? Again, something is really wrong.

Mark Allyn
Guest

For you folks who live in Washington County, elections are 15 months away. Perhaps shoud one of you consider running for Sheriff?

Attornatus_Oregonensis
Guest
Attornatus_Oregonensis

@ #3: Tim\’s family will have a wrongful death cause of action against Knight. Tim\’s family will have to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Knight\’s actions were negligent and caused Tim\’s death. This shouldn\’t be very difficult. The economic damages Tim\’s family can get include the amount of money that Tim could reasonably be expected to have earned until his death at a \”natural\” age. The issue then becomes whether Knight has the money to pay Tim\’s salary.

@ #6: It\’s really important for people to understand that our legal priorities are not an accident. They are a reflection of the interests that those in power have sought to protect. If we want cyclists\’ interests protected — or even just respect for others\’ safety — we have to advocate for it. One of the few positive things to come of this tragedy could be laws that will show people we\’re serious about protecting cyclists\’ safety.

Adam8
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Adam8

That\’s F*cked. That\’s all there is to it. If this had happened in any other situation besides a car hitting a bike, it would be considered manslaughter.

Todd B
Guest
Todd B

The other issue: to seek stronger laws is the enforcement of the law to carry and have a valid operators permit (drivers license).

I continually find it curious that our local court authorities and legislatures do not strengthen this part of the existing law with higher fines and possible jail time (repeat offenders, etc.). Especially when many of our problem drivers are the ones avoiding education and certification by driving without a permit.

It really debases the already low level of drivers education and enforcement that we have here in the US.

[I can understand our local leaders\’ vague worries about ticketing a local voter who has forgotten to renew their license, but the renewal process by mail is easy and the situation is out of hand.]

MaTa
Guest
MaTa

This is soooooooo outrageous. What is the point of even having a driver\’s license if you can drive without one (i.e. suspended) continue to disobey traffic laws AND kill a bicyclist with your negligence and STILL get only a slap on the wrist (I too like the monthly payments on top of everything else. . .nice they could make it all so convenient for her)

I bet she will continue to drive too. . .. they didn\’t even confiscate her truck (which was an expensive, brand new vehicle by the way. . .so she just couldn\’t come up with $1000 all at once, eh?)

Too bad she didn\’t do something actually heinous like have a joint in the ashtray or something. . .THEN she would have been looking at a felony or two and a few years jail time. [/cynicism] Man, we have some REALLY screwed priorities in our \”justice\” system.. . . ..

Todd B
Guest
Todd B

The level of court fines levied here ($1000) is interesting when compared to the possible fines Rev. Phil / Sano would have had to pay if his case had gone to trial and he had lost.

PDX Trib: \”Other officers on the scene quickly took over, charging Sano with indecent exposure, criminal mischief, disorderly conduct and, last but not least, having an open beer can on his bike rack. All told, Sano could have been facing two and a half years in prison plus $11,750 in fines.\”

Bearhat
Guest
Bearhat

I hope my life would be worth more than a measley $1,000 if I died by getting hit by a car. This makes me ill.

pencap
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pencap

i cant believe it. i just really cant. Did/could the DA do anything in this case to push for harsher punishment, or is it limited to the violations she received?

It makes me sick that she\’ll get to throw money at this horrible thing she did, even if she does get sued by Tim\’s family its still just money. She still gets to have a life, go outside, breath air, go to parties, laugh with friends, have a family, and f-in drive to all of it in her brand new shiny death truck. I literally feel like im about to vomit..

Mr. Viddy
Guest

Anyone who wants to point me towards local cycling advocacy groups feel free to do so. I am willing to commit to supporting cycling causes.

Martha S.
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Martha S.

….Oh this is so pissing me off. Grrr, grr, and double grr.

Mr.Viddy, on local cycling group is shift (to bikes) their website is http://www.shift2bikes.org. You can subscribe to the listserve, it\’s a great way to stay connected. There\’s also the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, they do a lot of lobbying and other work to improve bike safety. (www.bta4bikes.org)

Another way everyone here can help is to get involved personally. Tell your legislators what you care about, make sure your representatives know that bike safety is important to you. Especially in a country where so many have become apathetic activism makes a big difference.

Bike Giant
Guest
Bike Giant

This is exactly why I have life insurance. If any of you out there have a family, please consider life insurance. It is relatively inexpensive, and no I am not involved in the insurance industry.

The way all of this is playing out is making me sick. I can\’t believe a cyclists life isn\’t even worth jail time!!!

beth h
Guest

There may well be a civil suit option here, but if the driver has made arrangements to pay the fine in monthly installments she probably doesn\’t have much money to begin with. A civil suit may well be pointless.

Mister Attorney (post # 9) is right: our laws are a reflection of society\’s priorities, and to change the laws we have to make enough noise to get society to change its priorities — and the laws.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

This kind of stuff scares the crap out of me! 1000 bucks?!?!? We are vulnerable road users indeed – for some reason I always figured killing a cyclist would be a bigger deal legally speaking. I agree with the above posters that this person will probably still be driving too…

Would be very interested in following the lawsuit when that happens.

VR
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VR

Pardon my language.

This is fucked.

There is nothing else to add.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

She has to live with the fact that she killed someone. She might be regretfull and all that but let\’s face it, she\’s probably still be driving around, suspended license and this event notwithstanding. Anyone live near her that could point a webcam to the driveway?

matchu
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matchu

It\’s nice having a price tag on my life -might stencil some $1000 tags on the back of my shirts as a reminder to hostile drivers that if they have the money to blow it\’s acceptable to run me over.

Brad
Guest
Brad

Don\’t blame law enforcement for this mess. Sherrif Gordon of Washington County can only bring the charges allowed by the law and Oregon\’s laws are pathetically weak when cyclists and pedestrians are involved. Vulnerable Road User was a first step and we all should be supporting Senator Prozanski\’s bid to create a vehicular homicide felony for just this sort of incident.

As for Ms. Knight, the family should sue her and her insurance provider. In lieu of jail time, keeping this waste of life in hock for the rest of her miserable life is the next best thing – \”Sorry kids. There will be no Christmas gifts again this year because Mommy killed someone with her car.\”

Jonathan – you know how some communities have websites that post pics of johns caught soliciting prostitutes or registered sex offenders? Why not create a gallery of \”killers\” on BikePortland? Their mugshots should be in the public domain thus usable without compensation and we would all know what these folks look like. The added bonus is that employers, community groups, etc. using Google to check references / personal history would stumble upon this choice information rather easily. Would you hire someone like Ms. Knight knowing that she killed and has a past filled with reckless and angry behavior?

Jean Reinhardt
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Jean Reinhardt

Radio host Lars Larson once suggested that a good video student project would be to stalk a convicted drunk driver with camera in hand to see how soon they were driving drunk again.

tonyt
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tonyt

In one of the posts about this story, Jonathan mentioned the \”vocal opponents\” (or something like that) of the vulnerable road users bill.

I would really like one of these people to explain how in the world we are served by someone being able to pay $1000 and walk away.

How in the world? What? Is it going to put some \”undue burden on the economy\” or some sort of conservative/free-market BS fantasy like that?

Who opposes this bill? Who?

I want names. I want numbers.

a.O
Guest
a.O

\”Who opposes this [vulnerable roadway users] bill? Who?\”

REPUBLICANS. tonyt, these votes are all public records, and you apparently have some facility in pushing the buttons that control the internets, so …

Spencer
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Spencer

The sqeeky wheel gets the grease, so let\’s sqeek.

How about we get 500 bikers out to the washington Co. court house and at the appointed hour sit down with our bikes in the street and stop buisness until the actual judge and DA come out and explain the JUSTICE in the decision to us and the cameras.

If they can put Paris Hilton back in jail due to public out cry, why can\’t the \”re-look into the case\” for a Manslaughter?

Todd
Guest
Todd

@#28

I would support it, as well as a few of my friends.

Todd

Brad
Guest
Brad

If she has already entered a no contest plea then double jeopardy may preclude any additional prosecution in this case.

A.O. – Is this correct or can the WashCo D.A. file new charges? I imagine her attorney advised her to plead and pay right away to make this end.

a.O
Guest
a.O

My understanding is that the DA still could charge Knight criminally but does not because her actions are not seen as rising to the level required to prove criminal negligence/recklessness under current OR law. I think the problem is that we don\’t have an adequate criminal charge here, *YET*. This is why we need people to advocate for, and to call their representatives in the Legislature regarding, the vehicular homicide bill that will be introduced again in the next session.

Antonio Gramsci
Guest

i\’m there with anyone else who wants to show up at the courthouse/da\’s office demanding explanations…

NoChain
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NoChain

Why are so many of so sure this outcome is unjust?

In terms of causing this tragedy, driving without a license is irrelevant, much less a cause.

And crossing a solid stripe in order to pass cyclists is normal behavior, often performed by police, albeit it\’s technically illegal in Oregon but legal in at least one state (Ohio).

To the contrary, the fact that she crossed the center stripe in order to pass the cyclists indicates that she saw them and she was trying to pass them without hitting them. Did the cyclist moved left much earlier, and she just ran into him from behind? Is there any evidence of that? Or did he signal, look back and inadvertently drift/swerve into her path right as she was passing him as at least one report indicated he did (and seems much more likely)?

Can you really blame a driver for hitting a pedestrian who suddenly and unexpectedly runs out in front of the car, or a cyclist who suddenly and unexpectedly swerves in front of a car?

I hope all the cyclists reading this realize that just because a cyclist is signaling does not give him the right to move left without first making sure it\’s clear and safe to do so.

tonyt
Guest
tonyt

Gee a.O, you sure are smart, and patronizing as well!!

Last time I checked, it passed the Senate 25-4, and the House 40-9.

Now I\’m as averse to Republicans as the next person with a brain, but that obviously includes support from many Republicans.

Is there something more than just those votes going on? It passed and then it passed and then it was heading to the Governor\’s desk, but then there\’s something about it being submitted with only a week to go and died due to lack of time. Something like this??

Is this right or am I confusing different bills (vulnerable users vs. vehicular homocide)

There\’s more going on than I understand and I have a job Mr. a.O and I don\’t really have the time to research the heck out of this which is why I was asking.

Excuse me, but I have to figure out this information super-highway thing. I\’ve heard that you can even order records over it.

a.O
Guest
a.O

@ #33:

Jeez, I was just trying to be funny. I think you\’re confusing the bills, as you say. I hesitate to point this out, lest you become all indignant again, but your question about who opposed the bill and who supported it are two different things. You wanted to know who opposed it, and I told you. You also invited the rest of the bikeportland readership (which apparently doesn\’t have jobs?) to go do your research for you. I declined. Sorry.

tonyt
Guest
tonyt

To keep it simple a.O, I was asking because I didn\’t know if someone might know it off the top off their head.

toodles!

jeff
Guest
jeff

TonyT:

HB 3314 – Vunerable Users
House: 45 yays, 9 nays (Boquist, Cameron, Garrard, Gilliam, Gilman, Hanna, Maurer, Morgan, Scott)

Senate: 25 yays, 4 nays (Beyer, George, L., Kruse, Whitsett)

All nays were Republicans. You can find their numbers.. 🙂

ME
Guest
ME

Somebody should have seen this coming…again, and had the mind to change the law along time ago. At least it\’s rolling now and may be in place when the next cyclist gets crunched.

Natron Bomb
Guest
Natron Bomb

cars dont kill people drivers kill people. Guns dont kill poeple menwith mustaches kill poeple.

Sunningotter
Guest
Sunningotter

The solution is simple; if you are driving without a license, your car is GONE. If you are driving drunk, your car is GONE. IF your friend is stupid enough to loan you their car under the above circumstances, their car is GONE. Alternative transportation is available at Community Cycling Center and elsewhere (Create-a-Commuter!).

John Ohnstad
Guest

This is a sad situation and unfortunately, the Sheriff cannot do anything about it. We had a chance to meet with the Washington County Sheriff\’s Department last week and they are an advocate for all of us here.

Within the last couple of years, they (Sheriff\’s Dept) lost one of their own in Yamhill County to someone driving \”Carelessly.\” Sadly, all the Yamhill County Sheriff\’s Department could do is write a citation.

Using California\’s model for Vehicular Homicide Law as a model for Vulnerable Users (Cyclists, Walkers, Joggers, Handicapped, Motorcyclists, etc…) is a good start so that there is actual jail time for those found at fault. This is where law enforcement has one way of helping us.

We need to help BTA in pushing for a Vehicular Homicide BIll when our state legislators meet again. We need to put heat on our representatives that this needs to be dealt with. Republican, Independent, Democrat, Libertarian, who cares…we need to press them and not let up.

Max
Guest
Max

1. a Dodge Avenger is a compact economy car average selling price around $20K – cheap car, not a expensive truck as one posters says.

2. The civil route is useless, doubt seriously the girl has assets of enough value to get a quality lawyer involved. So you get a million dollar judgement. The results would be on her credit report for maybe 10 years but the claimant would have to constantly pursue her, file attachments, investigations of assets – The Goldmans are spending a fortune to get next to nothing from OJ.

Cyclist was making a LEFT turn, across the path of the auto and that made for the circumstances that made this a sad ACCIDENT with both at fault some.

Perhaps one should think twice about playing with toys in traffic, which is what biking is.

peejay
Guest
peejay

Other posters, please do not respond to \”Max.\” This type of troll deserves no answer.

a.O
Guest
a.O

Thanks, peejay, for your discretion and your service to our community here.

peejay
Guest
peejay

a.O.:

I still owe you that beer! We can toast to the hope that the most closed-minded of our species will wake up tomorrow with a desire to learn something new, and apply that knowledge to make this world a slightly less terrifying place to live.

a.O
Guest
a.O

Yeah, we gotta get together. Email me at cmheaps [at] gmail.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

MAX, (sorry PeeJay)

Please note:

He was struck by a motorist from BEHIND as he attempted to make a left-hand turn.

\”A group of five bicyclists were riding south on Cornelius-Schefflin Road and were preparing to turn east on NW Long Road.

As the second cyclist in the line signaled for the turn a vehicle also traveling south on Cornelius-Schefflin began to pass the group of bicycles. The vehicle, a 2008 Dodge Avenger, struck the signaling bicyclist while it was still in it’s lane of traffic\”

If you ever kill a law abiding citizen by running them down from behind with 3,355 lbs of steel then maybe your view will change. If this unfortunate event were to occur, hopefully the law would be different by then so that you would have to post your viewpoints from the prison library.

earl
Guest
earl

ssssssssssssssss

NoChain
Guest
NoChain

Whether Max is a troll or not, his sentiment that bicycling is \”playing with toys in traffic\” is a commonly held view, and, judging by how they behave in traffic, by many cyclists too.

To that end, Max\’s post serves as a reminder for all of us take it seriously out there, and to behave in a manner that shows we take it seriously.

SKiDmark
Guest
SKiDmark

The same could be said about people in cars. Even worse, many of them think they are at home in their living room!