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Police on Hanna hit-and-run case: “This was the best we could do”

Posted by on August 30th, 2010 at 2:33 pm

“If we could have put a solid felony case together against Mr. Hanna, and we tried, we would have gone forward with much stiffer charges… I would have liked to seen felony charges, but at the end of the day, this was the best we could do.”
— Sgt. Todd Davis, Portland Police Bureau

Many people in the community are outraged at the light sentence given to prominent local business man and owner of Mt. Hood Ski Bowl Kirk Hanna for the drunken, 80 mph, hit-and-run he pleaded guilty to last week.

Like any high-profile case like this, there are a lot of moving parts at work; the District Attorney’s office, the judge, the defense attorneys, the victim, the police, the defendant, and so on. I’ll be looking into the story a bit more in the coming days, but one thing I wanted to share now is the role that the Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division played (the Traffic Division handles all our city’s hit-and-run cases).

Sargeant Todd Davis has recently taken over some of the duties of ex Traffic Division Lieutenant Bryan Parman. One of those is hit-and-run cases. In my dealings with Davis about this case, he’s been clearly frustrated with how it turned out. After reading several comments here on BikePortland that were critical of the handling of this case, Sgt. Davis shared the following statement. It’s a window into the high stakes poker game played out between an understaffed police force and a team of high-paid attorneys (emphasis mine):

“If we could have put a solid felony case together against Mr. Hanna, and we tried, we would have gone forward with much stiffer charges.

Before myself and the Traffic Investigations Unit even knew about this case, one of Mr. Hanna’s three attorneys came to our office and gave us the keys to the Porsche. They told us where it was parked and also told us we could not search it or tow it without a warrant and that we could not talk to their client.

I sent an investigator out to look at it. He took pictures of it and informed me that it looked like it had struck a bicyclist and by the extent of damage, probably caused serious injury. We still did not have a case to match this to. I called all over the metro area trying to find an agency with a serious or possible fatal hit and run to a bicyclist. With no luck, I started sifting through closed radio calls in our own city. I finally found the case in question, the hit and run to Mr. Skof on Macadam Ave. The call had been taken by Central Precinct officers and the reports were still being processed.

We then wrote a search warrant and towed Mr. Hanna’s vehicle. We contacted witnesses and family members. We located surveillance cameras and looked at footage, all trying to place Mr. Hanna in the driver’s seat of the Porsche. After everything was exhausted, we couldn’t put the case together without an actual confession by Mr. Hanna.

This is where all the legal wrangling with his attorneys and our lone District Attorney started. We basically held our cards close and sent our DA to the table holding only a pair of deuces. The end result was the plea deal you saw last Thursday.

Like I said, I would have liked to seen felony charges, but at the end of the day, this was the best we could do. Sometimes a pair of deuces wins the pot. At the same time, the victim’s ability to recover civil damages was protected. We take our cases very seriously here, especially when they involve vulnerable road users. A lot of investigative work went into this, but at the end of the day, this was the best we could do. Had this case gone to trial, there’s a good chance we wouldn’t have done as well.

I hope that clarifies how we ended up with these charges and the plea agreement.”

This statement from Sgt. Davis shows how difficult it can be to build a case that will hold up in court and ultimately hold a defendant accountable for their actions — especially when very capable defense attorneys are involved.

I’ll be looking into other aspects of this case in the coming days. If you have questions or concerns, please share them in the comments below.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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cyclist
Guest
cyclist

No offense Jonathan, but I don’t see any manipulation by the defense attorney here.

On the other hand it’s great that the settlement didn’t preclude the victim from filing a civil suit, the burden of proof is substantially lower in civil cases, so there’s a chance the victim could win where the DA couldn’t.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

cyclist,

definition of manipulate is to “control (others or oneself) or influence skillfully, to one’s advantage;” I think that fits the bill here.

Marcus Griffith
Guest
Marcus Griffith

Did Hanna know his victim lived or was he worried about facing vehicle homicide charges? He clearly wasn’t worried about the cyclists safety.

I wonder how many other veterans out there wonder if the oath to “protect the american way of life” was intentionally designed to protect a rich person’s right to excessive leniency.

are
Guest

any details on the amount of the victim compensation order? can we see a copy of the sentencing order?

NewRiderInPDX
Guest
NewRiderInPDX

I guess the saddest part here is that people like Hanna would rather live with the guilt of what they’ve done than own up to the full consequences of their actions. I’d assume though that he has lost a lot of respect from a lot of people. Me included.

Allan
Guest
Allan

Is the problem that they couldn’t identify the driver from the footage? The auto-speeding-ticket vans don’t have that same burden of proof, although i guess that isn’t criminal court.

BURR
Guest
BURR

the speed ticket vans take a very clear picture of the driver in the vehicle at the time they are caught speeding. That’s why it’s called ‘photo radar’.

browse
Guest
browse

While I’m sad that more could not be done with this specific case, I find it hugely educational, and even a little reassuring, to see something of the process that goes on behind the scenes.

cyclist
Guest
cyclist

Jonathan: The attorney simply did not allow for their client to be interviewed or the car to be searched without a warrant. The police ended up getting a warrant for the car and searching it. Everybody with an 8th grade education knows that you have a right to remain silent and that you have a 5th amendment right against self-incrimination. You don’t describe any other actions taken on the part of Hanna’s attorneys that affected the case. Where’s the manipulation?

I keep hammering on this because, as regularly occurs, you keep inserting your opinions without providing supporting evidence. This story makes it clear that the police didn’t have enough evidence to charge Hanna with a more serious crime. The police say the only way they would have had enough evidence to charge a felony was if Hanna confessed to the crime. Had Hanna’s attorneys advised that Hanna confess to the crime they would have been grossly incompetent.

Put simply: other than advising their client not to answer the questions of the Portland PD, what exactly did the defense attorneys do?

david....no! the other one
Guest
david....no! the other one

Ok! so here is my question, just one! and it might explain so many things depending upon the answer. Does Mr Hanna have children?

Brad
Guest
Brad

The sad thing (New Rider@5) is that he likely feels no guilt and will lose no respect. Our society seems to be more and more driven by the pursuit of base pleasures and status to the point that simple nobility no longer matters. Guilt? My guess is that Mr.Hanna breathes a big sigh of relief and happily pays his legal team for their fine work.

I also imagine that Mr. Hanna runs in rather conservative and wealthy circles. Down at the MAC Club or wherever he hangs out, they probably pity poor Mr.Hanna for not seeing that n’er do well bike rider out in the wee hours of the morning. No fine upstanding citizen has any business being on a bicycle on a busy road at that hour! As long as Mr. Hanna has money and free lift tickets to hand out, his “friends” will rally to his aid. Your opinion matters not to his kind.

Rob
Guest
Rob

If I’m reading this correctly, there’s a good chance that the attorneys knew that a cyclist had been hit. They also probably knew when and where this occurred. They apparently had no idea whether anyone had found the cyclist. So, if I have this right, the attorneys and their client were withholding information that had the potential to save the life of a person?

Zoomzit
Guest
Zoomzit

I was actually scheduled to go to SkiBowl tomorrow for a work event, but cancelled due to the behavior of Mr. Hanna.

Which leads me to believe that many others would feel the same if they knew of this case. So, why isn’t anyone else picking up this story? It’s pretty juicy local news. Certainly more “interesting” (for new orgs) than the standard, “my dog had two puppies” sort of story that we see on the Oregonian or local TV news.

I would love to see this get more press, primarily so that this event has serious economic consequences for Mr. Hanna, as that appears to be one of the only meaningful consequences that could be metered against him.

Jayson L
Guest
Jayson L

I’d like to think the civil suit will teach Mr. Hanna a lesson, but when you’ve got so many millions, a life doesn’t seem so costly.. particularly one that’s only interrupted and not ended. What a crazy and sad existence he must live..

trail abuser
Guest
trail abuser

Attorneys defending clients almost always instruct them to keep their mouth shut. It’s standard operating procedure and was nothing special, or even a result of his “high priced attorneys'” work. Criminal courts are not Sunday confessional with your rabbi or priest. If it were so easy, everyone and their mother would be in prison.

Rich Wilson
Guest
Rich Wilson

This has left me wondering if having lots of money has a tendency to make one a sociopath.

are
Guest

re comment 12, an expensive criminal defense lawyer will make it a point to tell the client up front not to disclose this kind of stuff even to the lawyer himself. this protects the lawyer from knowingly being a party to putting on false testimony (for example, an alibi witness) if there is a trial, and (to address your question directly) it protects the lawyer from undertaking any conflicting responsibilities (for example, to report the location of an injured person).

why comment 8 finds this kind of thing “reassuring” escapes me.

Rich Wilson
Guest
Rich Wilson

Keeping your mouth shut is actually pretty good advice for everyone, even if you know you’re not guilty of anything.

http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2008/07/why_you_should.html

NewRiderInPDX
Guest
NewRiderInPDX

I completely agree that this should be all over our news. Hell…Fox could do a great job at making sure it’s dramatic as possible (just kidding…sort of). But I definitely think more Oregonians need to know about Hanna: who he is, what he does and what happened with this incident. I’ve been spreading the news that’s for sure!

Velophile in Exile
Guest
Velophile in Exile

@ #18: I love that video. It is the single best thing the average person can do to protect his or her civil rights.

Noah Genda
Guest
Noah Genda

SkiBowl is no longer an option for my winter fun, its the only way I can affect this man at all.

Rob
Guest
Rob

It looks like the hyperlink didn’t apply to the entire web address in my earlier post (#22). Just cut and paste….

BURR
Guest
BURR

The police say the only way they would have had enough evidence to charge a felony was if Hanna confessed to the crime.

This is only true because the police didn’t have enough other evidence to positively identify Mr. Hanna as the operator of the vehicle at the time of the collision.

Allan
Guest
Allan

Why is the owner of the vehicle not the default ‘operator’? This is good enough for photo speeding tickets and red lights.

are
Guest

re comment 25, because we are talking about sending someone to prison. do you yourself know for a fact that hanna was behind the wheel?

Marcus Griffith
Guest
Marcus Griffith

are,

Hanna negates the question if he was behind the wheel when he plead guilty. The presumption of innocence does not apply to persons pleading guilty (hence the guilty part).

Sure, you could argue he took the plea to cover up for his mistress that was in town that night or some other odd theory, but he plead guilty, case literary closed.

Lisa
Guest
Lisa

Why is it people like to rag on attorneys (they’re manipulative, blah, blah, blah) but then when they need an attorney they want the best one they can get presumably to do the same sort of thing.

The attorneys in this case were doing what they were hired to do. Just as an attorney you hired would do the same thing.

Nothing to look at here. It’s how the system works.

are
Guest

yo, marcus, i was responding to a question why we can’t just assume the owner of a car goes to prison if someone uses it in a hit and run, okay?

Greg
Guest
Greg

Sadly, the lesson here is that you can benefit greatly by leaving the scene and calling a lawyer. Don’t think people won’t remember that next time they are out driving drunk and run someone down.

MtnMom
Guest
MtnMom

The victim’s ability to recover civil damages was protected….let’s see how that plays out. Frankly, I would rather the victim be compensated than pay for Hanna to sit in jail. Just because someone has achieved wealth doesn’t insulate them from regret or remorse.

Boycotting Skibowl will not harm Hanna as much as it will harm the people who work there. He employs hundreds.

Zoomzit
Guest
Zoomzit

How much in ad revenue does SkiBowl send to the Oregonian, and local TV stations? Is that playing into why there hasn’t been more coverage of this? I hope the two aren’t connected, but it’s hard for me to not be cynical about this.

Mike
Guest
Mike

What does the mountain bike community think? I hear Timberline wants to put in a mountain bike park, I bet this kind of thing will help.

Dabby
Guest
Dabby

Lame…

I am going to climb up past Mirror Lake, go along Tom, Dick and Harry Mts., and board his runs FOR FREE!!!!!
Take that….

Seth D. Alford
Guest
Seth D. Alford

FWIW, here’s the contact us link for oregonlive: http://www.oregonlive.com/contactus/

I submitted a comment asking why no coverage of the Kirk Hanna plea bargain, and asked if advertisers get a pass.

Jonathan, can you share the license plate of Mr. Hanna’s car so that we can be on the lookout for it, especially during the period Mr. Hanna’s license is suspended?

Burk
Guest
Burk

Thanks for posting the link Rich (#18), that was fascinating.

Tourbiker
Guest
Tourbiker

this a comment section? or a forum.

esther
Guest
esther

There also needs to be a law that anyone who leaves the scene of an accident is presumed to be DUI.

Many people leave because they’re intoxicated. It is often better to get ticketed for leaving the scene than DUI. IF you leave its very difficult to prove the DUI because you say “I was sober then went home and drank.

Stig
Guest
Stig

You’d have to be an idiot NOT to leave the leave the scene in this state.

Maybe we need something like this:

Flee the scene of an accident = surrender license for 3 years.

Flee the scene of an injury accident = surrender license for 10 years.

Flee the scene of an injury accident resulting in death = surrender license for 25 years.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

Thanks for doing the follow-up on this, Jonathan. I’m still very sore about the failure of justice in this case, but I appreciate you shining a light on the process.

And I like esther’s (#38) idea.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

Also, a big thanks to Sgt. Davis for his clear articulation of their work and his commitment to protecting vulnerable road users.

adam
Guest
adam

This is interesting, thank you for following up! as you look into this, can we test this theory that people who hit cyclists struggle with immense guilt, regret, remorse, etc?

I would wager that Hanna could care less that he hit anyone but we often hear people saying how difficult it must be for the driver in a situation like this to recover, emotionally.

Merckxrider
Guest
Merckxrider

The good news is that Mr. Hanna lives in the Portland area–because the cyclist population is high enough and class-mixed enough so there will more than likely be old friends who no longer will talk to him or be seen in public with him. It’s more likely that he’ll become at least a little bit of a pariah here than in Cleveland or Los Angeles.

KWW
Guest
KWW

No failure on part of the Police (thank you), but it seems that the DA always has a rush toward a plea bargain (name a recent case that has gone to trial?), and in cases like this it is not acceptable in my opinion.

That is why the community should be keeping score on the DA’s performance. This is not acceptable, hit and run and only a misdemeanor charge?

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

KWW,

in the many times I’ve worked with our DAs on bike cases, i have found them to be very determined in getting justice when vulnerable roadway users are involved. With this case, it’s important to realize that the cops/DA played a poker match. They had very little to go on and they are actually very fortunate to even get the misdemeanor guilty plea. From what I’ve found out so far, if not for the hard work on the investigation by Sgt. Davis and the work of the DA, Hanna could have gotten through this without every pleading guilt to anything. I will share more in a separate story. thanks.

matt picio
Guest

Marcus Griffith (#27) – I think that the question “are” and others might be getting at is: does Mr. Hanna have any children of driving age? “are” is right, it can’t be assumed that Mr. Hanna was at the wheel unless there is proof – but with the guilty plea, he has effectively protected the actual driver if he was not driving.

That’s all pure speculation, of course – and in my case likely fueled by my massive viewing of bad movies during my misspent youth.

General remark – I agree that boycotting Skibowl will harm Hanna’s employees more than harming Mr. Hanna. Not that it matters in my case, since I’ve never been and had no plans on going.

Stig (#39) – Confiscate and sell the car. Proceeds go to the lienholder, or if the car is owned outright, to the victim / estate. I’m not saying we shouldn’t add some of the penalties you describe, but there are 40,000 people convited in Oregon each year of driving while suspended.

KWW (#44) – It’s pretty clear from the above statement that the DA didn’t have a lot of options available, but as you also point out, the DAs office has been less than aggressive on a number of cases, and I agree – their performance should be monitored and taken into account.

Jonathan (#45) – That’s great, but you’re asking us to take your word for it. Let’s have a little more transparency with the public, and some objective metrics to go by. I really appreciate the effort the DAs go through to take dangerous people off the streets, but mistakes can be made, and like the police, the DAs and the courts are and should be held accountable to the public for their actions. These are people who hold the lives of others in their hands and they should be held to a higher standard than the average citizen.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

The attorney was in a position to call nearly all the shots. Just the fact that the the attorney contacted and informed the PD of the collision and the whereabouts of the vehicle before the PD’s traffic division even was aware of the collision was a setback.

Not being able to search the vehicle or make inquiries of the person suspected of being the hit and run driver. With someone having done what Hanna did, I would have liked the police to have been able to search the vehicle. In a search, they may or may not have found more that could have helped tell them more about what kind of person it is that’s been driving around in public, and likely will be again in 90 days.

Fortunately, the witnesses were able to get Hanna’s license plate number, and also fortunately, Hanna was scared enough to realize he’d been spotted and would have to come forward. Some people might have decided to skip off to another state, not to be heard of again for years, if ever.

Incidentally, I wasn’t quite sure what Sargent Todd Davis meant here:

“…With no luck, I started sifting through closed radio calls in our own city. …”.

Does that refer to Portland only calls, or something else?

Zoomzit
Guest
Zoomzit

@31 and 46, I think you underestimate the power of boycotts (or threats of them) to influence corporate behavior. BP is a classic example of this. They were under no legal obligation to provide $4B for the clean up, but they did, mostly out of fear of public backlash and boycott. If they didn’t have this fear of public anger, they would have most likely acted far worse.

As the owner of SkiBowl, Mr. Hanna is directly benefiting from the facilities profits. As he fled the scene of what could have been vehicular homicide, he deserves public scrutiny. If scrutiny creates anger, which develops into boycott, Mr. Hanna’s actions could have a effect on the SkiBowl employees. But, it is important to note that 1. Potential boycott is the result of Mr. Hanna’s actions, for which there are (or should be) significant consequences and 2.There is a cost/benefit analysis here and the potential harm to employees may be bad, but letting a prominent businessman walk (nearly) scott free from a potential homicide is worse.

If we don’t stand up to bad corporate and individual behavior, we have every reason to expect worse the next time around.

cyclist
Guest
cyclist

Jonathan:
They had very little to go on and they are actually very fortunate to even get the misdemeanor guilty plea. From what I’ve found out so far, if not for the hard work on the investigation by Sgt. Davis and the work of the DA, Hanna could have gotten through this without every pleading guilt to anything.

Given that you think that Hanna could have gotten away with his crime, why would do you think that his defense attorney was in any way skillful? They advised their client to take a plea when he could have gotten away with no charge.

Words have meaning, you accusing the attorney of being a manipulator without providing evidence of such is at a minimum irresponsible.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

cyclist,

I absolutely think Hanna’s attorneys were very skillful. that fact is not debatable. His main attorney was John Henry Hingson, one of the most prominent criminal defense attorneys in the state.

I realize words have meaning. I stand by my use of the world “manipulate,” but I won’t use it again in this context because I understand why you have taken issue with it. Truth is all parties in this case manipulated the system. Cops, DA, and lawyers all played the game and depending on your perspective, all sides could be seen as winners.

red hippie
Guest
red hippie

Too bad that there wasn’t a video camera with a clear picture of his face near the site of the accident. If that was a case, this would be a different story.

In regards to the boycott and after reading the Forbes article, you would do better to picket his condo open houses or any of the other various civic activities he is involved with. But ask yourself, “what is the goal of the boycott/picket?” Do you want money for the victim? Then donate to his legal fund. Do you want to get additional charges? The case has been finalized and no double jeopardy. In the end, people are mad and just want to hurt him in some manner. What does this accomplish? I would just refuse to sell him a cup of coffee or cut his grass and let you r dog crap on his lawn. At least he would be reminded of him crime.