Robert Weeks, the driver of a truck involved in a collision that killed bicycle rider Adam Joy on June 10th, was found to have no criminal liability for his death.
Joy was riding behind his 15-year old son about 10 miles south of McMinnville when the collision occurred. They were training for the Seattle-to-Portland ride.
Joy’s family is outraged by the DA’s decision and is moving forward with their civil lawsuit against Weeks.
According to the Oregon State Police, the decision to not charge Weeks was made on August 22nd by Polk County District Attorney Aaron Felton. They say there was “insufficient evidence to support criminal prosecution.” While the DA and OSP felt the driver’s actions did not rise to the level needed for criminal penalties, they have issued Weeks two traffic citations: one for Careless Driving (ORS 811.135), and one for Unsafe Passing of a Person Operating a Bicycle (ORS 811.065).
Since Weeks’ careless driving led to the death of a “vulnerable roadway user,” (VRU) the citation triggers a stronger consequence. Bike advocates amended the careless driving law in 2007 for precisely this type of situation. Since the legal bar required for criminal penalties is so high, they sought to narrow the gap of consequences and bring more justice to families through the traffic citation. Violation of 811.135 with a VRU allows a court to require the driver to take a traffic safety course, perform up to 200 hours of community service, pay a fine of up to $12,500 and suspend their license for up to one year.
Even with those stronger penalties, Joy’s family is very disappointed with how the DA has handled this case.
As we reported, police initially stated that Joy “fell over” in front of Weeks’ large, Ford F350 truck just prior to being hit. They also said Weeks slowed as he passed. But a witness who was traveling on the same road at the time of the collision told BikePortland that they felt Joy was riding along normally and that Weeks was going very fast and appeared to never move over.
Joy’s family alleges that the DA handled the case in a way that protected Weeks.
“I’m angry because they are treating Adam like a roadkill, and the driver is getting away with just a couple of traffic tickets. How is a person only given fines for taking a human life?,” Joy’s sister-in-law Gina Wilson shared with BikePortland after learning about the DA’s decision. “How do I prove to my nephews that their father’s life mattered after the state is giving this man fines? Sure, one of them is large. But excessive speeding fines did not stop him before!” (a reference to Weeks’ prior citations for speeding).
I reached out to DA Felton multiple times in the past few months to find the status of this case. The most recent time was September 5th. On that date, DA Felton stated via email that, “We are still at the stage of an open, active investigation so I am not going to be making any comments.”
However, according to the OSP, the charging decisions in the case were made on August 22nd.
BikePortland filed a public records request to see a copy of the police report and investigation. Yesterday I received a response from an OSP legal specialist that the records are still part of an ongoing investigation and that they now consider my request for the police report closed. The next step will be to file an appeal.
It’s unclear why the Polk County DA has not been forthcoming with BikePortland about the details of this case.
Joy’s family still has an open civil lawsuit against Weeks, so perhaps we will learn more through that process. In the meantime, his family is still grieving and is left with no justice for his death.
“Monetary compensation will never be enough for Adam’s life,” Wilson shared with BikePortland. “The boys, these brilliant young men, they deserve more than this.”