The man driving the garbage truck that was involved in the collision that killed Tamar Monhait on August 21st has been issued two traffic citations.
The Portland Police Bureau has cited Paul Thompson for a Dangerous Left Turn and Failure to Signal a Turn. The former is a Class C traffic violation that comes with a presumptive fine of $260 and the latter is a Class D violation that has a presumptive fine of $110. If Thompson challenges the citations in court the fines could be dropped to $130 and $60 respectively.
After a fatal collision, it’s standard procedure for the PPB to defer any citation decisions until after the District Attorney completes their investigation. On October 26th the Multnomah County DA declined to pursue criminal charges against Thompson. The DA found no evidence that Thompson engaged in the behaviors required to reach the legal threshold to prove a criminal recklessness or negligence.
Monhait was operating her bicycle at a safe speed within the bike lane prior to the collision. However, investigators determined she was under the influence of intoxicants, was not wearing reflective or high contrast clothing, and did not have a legally required front light on her bicycle. Those factors and others were noted in a memo issued by the DA that explains why police chose to not pursue elevated charges against Thompson.
Even though Thompson was operating a large truck in the central city and made a dangerous turn across a bike lane without using his signal, the PPB felt his actions did not even warrant a (non-criminal) Careless driving charge. As defined in ORS 811.135, someone is guilty of careless driving if they drive, “in a manner that endangers or would be likely to endanger any person or property.”
I asked the lead DA on this case, Nicole Jergovic, why the police didn’t cite for careless driving (and the additional consequence of causing death to a vulnerable roadway user). Jergovic said the rationale for a finding of careless is similar to what was laid out in the DA’s memo. “We’re looking at the same fact base that applies to the criminal case,” she said. After all is said and done, in the eyes of the DA and the police, the only things Thompson did wrong were to not use his turn signal and not yield the right of way.
Monhait’s family is seeking $24 million in a lawsuit against the trucking company who Thompson was driving for. Lawyers for the trucking company, Republic Services Alliance Group/McInnis Waste Systems, Inc., blame Monhait for own death.
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