Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How Jon Got Off

So, a few months ago, my friend Jon got a speeding ticket for going 37 mph in a 25 mph zone. If any of you know Jon, you would be surprised at this since driving with him is an exercise in patience. He drives like the sterotypical senior citizen, except he is 37 years old and he drives an Acura. What is more surprising, however, is the fact that he wasn't driving when he got written up; rather, he was riding his bike. Yep, he was cruising down Wasatch, behind the zoo, when he got nabbed by a motorcycle cop. As he passed Michigan, the cop pulled out, flashed his lights, pulled Jon over, reprimanded him for "speeding" and not having an ID, and after secretly checking out Jon's physique, which was thinly masked masked under not-so-subtly patterned lycra, became jealous and handed Jon a ticket. I don't remember how much it was for, but that doesn't matter.

What matters is that Jon protested it. In the interest of self, justice, ego, preserving the unalienable cylcists' natural rights, and having a really good story to tell, he told the state and the prosecutor that he was an innocent man, and that he deserved to walk free. The prosecutor didn't buy it, and offered him community service and/or probation. Still insisting on his innocence, Jon refused to cut a deal. The prosecutor refused to let him off. They were at an impasse. He said "stick it." She said, "no." So they went to trial.

One thing you have to understand is that Jon is a lawyer. Birds of a feather flock together and Jon has lots of lawyer friends. Like me, and like Bates. (Really, no one likes to stoop to befriend lawyers so we're forced to mingle with each other. Most of my non-lawyer friends make me sign reverse NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) prohibiting me from letting anyone know that I am a lawyer and their friend.) Moreover, we all are litigators, which is really just an ancient way of saying, we sue people, or try to get people who are being sued unsued. Because we are litigators we are used to going to court. You could say that in addition to knowing a bit about the law, we know a bit about "how to get one off" (notwithstanding his or her innocence or guilt).

I'm not saying Jon was guilty. In fact, I don't think he was, which is why, in part, I agreed to be part of his defense team. Our goal as a team was to "get Jon off," to defeat the charge made against him for speeding on his pedal bike. We prepared. Bates was appointed defense counsel. I was designated as an expert witness. Jon assumed the innocent man/persecuted plaintiff role. Leslie, his wife, came in as the chief fact witness to persuade the judge to 'believe her,' an expression which she liberally and effectively used.

When trial began I had that rare feeling of excitement that bike racers get when they line up as they size up their competition -- that I'm going to kick your a-- kind of feeling. Like I said, it rarely comes to me, but I know it when I feel it. At one table sat a gaggle of sharply dressed savvy trial attorneys: Jon's team. FYI, Bates used to make a living throwing drug dealers into jail, and immigrants out of the country (just the bad ones). At the other table sat a young prosecutor, maybe 1 or 2 years out of law school (who to her credit was also sharply dressed) and Mr. Motorcycle Cop. He seemed cocky. He wouldn't be for long. The other team had lined up with the wrong category. They were Cat 5s (not that there's anything wrong with that) that had mistakenly registered in the Pro/1/2 field. And they didn't even know it. I almost felt sorry for them, but not quite.

The first witness called to the stand was Mr. Motorcycle Cop. He sauntered up, swore to tell the truth and then proceeded to give his testimony, which included the following very important facts:

(a) he was a cop
(b) he was a traffic cop
(c) he rode a motorcycle
(d) while being a cop on his motorcycle, and while he was purportedly enforcing traffic laws, he radar gunned Jon riding down Wasatch
(e) he "clocked" Jon at 37 mph

On cross examination, Bates elicited the following facts:

(a) he liked being a motorcycle cop because he got to wear knee high leather boots
(b) he liked the show "Chips" growing up
(c) he could ride his moto and eat a donut simultaneously
(d) he felt bike riders riding at 7:00 am on a residential street posed a threat to the safety of sleeping citizens and therefore needed some law enforcement

Kidding. If I were defense counsel, these facts would have been on the top of my list. That's probably why I wasn't defense counsel. Really, the following key facts came out:

(e) he wasn't trained to use a radar gun to clock cyclists
(f) he was taught to shoot his radar gun at large reflective surfaces, like a windshield, and Jon's head was not a large reflective surface
(g) he did not believe the radar gun clocked the spinning wheels or the spinning cranks
(h) he did not recall whether Jon was in the drops in an aero position
(i) he did not show Jon the radar reading of 37 mph

Jon followed and his testimony was basically, I'm an innocent man. I wasn't speeding . . . to my recollection. I do not recall to my recollection that I was speeding, and similar iteratiions thereof. Clearly, the glove did not fit.

Then Leslie, the star fact witness, was called to the stand. She, like Jon, testified that they weren't speeding, that they were on a leisely ride. When asked, the question, "how do you rate yourself as a cyclist," she threw her shoulder back, flipped her hair, and said, "pretty good for a girl!" Later, after the trial, the judge commented that she could "drop him." We're not sure if he meant that she could drop him on a bike or just drop him . . . hmmm. I'll not comment on whether that was an appropriate comment. The fact that it was irrelevant was irrelvant since most of the testimony was bordering on irrelevant.

Finally, I fulfilled my role as the expert. Expert on what you ask? Expert on nothing. You see, a time-tested and true litigation tactic is this: if you can't beat them on the facts, then confuse and obscure. My testimony could be reduced down to this:

Point 1: why would a cyclist exceed what is a reasonable speed when he or she is essentially wearing nothing but his underwear?

Point 2: it is very hard for a cyclist to go 37 miles per hour. Case in point: Dave Zabriskie, one of the best TT'ers in the world, rides an aero bike, wears an aero helmet, and skinsuit but doesn't go that fast. Case in point: all out sprints often happen at speeds less than 37 miles per hour. Case in point: for me to go 37 miles an hour where Jon was clocked I would have to be in an aero position, in the drops, and spinning a mean gear.

I also succeeded in taking a dig at Leslie. When asked if I was Jon's friend (in attempt to show I was biased), I said, "no. I used to be, but that was before his wife made him stop racing his bike." The judge interjected, "that's because they have 4 kids." Thanks for the advice, Judge. I thought you were supposed to be unbiased. Sheesh.

In the end, and I know that you're hoping that this will end because it's gone on for so long, the Judge ruled in favor of Jon. The judge determined that the defense had established reasonable doubt. The judge said he could not conclude that foundation had been established by the prosecution to support the radar reading. He said that it was questionable as to whether Jon really exceeded the speed limit. And he made darn sure that we understood he was not ruling that it's okay for bikers to speed.

Jon was free to leave.

Jon's trial, however, resumes in the court of public opinion. Do you descend Wasatch and Michigan at 37 mph?


StupidBike said...

No i don't, you have to be trying REALLY hard to go that fast there, then there is the speed humps, and golf carts.

Plus, I am usually on a hammer-fest cool down any ways having ripped the trail up or done intervals up Emi, so I don't want to try hard any more.

Plus, that is 12mph over the speed limit, Jon is a criminal.

old school said...

I am not a criminal! I must say that it is a great feeling to be acquitted. Big thanks to my hired gun! While it was clear to all in the courtroom that the Samurai was indeed an expert qualified to opine on any subject related to bicycling, he almost lost my case when the prosecutor asked: Mr. Inouye, how fast have you traveled on your bicycle? Hearing no objection from Bates, the Samurai simply smiled and said with a bit of the same swagger exhibited by Mr. Motorbike Cop, “over 55 mph.” Good thing the Samurai wasn’t on trial, but I’m sure Mr. Motorbike Cop will be watching for him. Look out!

JZ said...

When I get my next ticket I know who to call. Who is this Bates and what is his number.

37 mph? That is nothing. I was clocked coming down millcreek on my mountain bike at 45 mph (which I think was completely wrong), but I only received a warning after a little talking to by officer friendly.

StupidBike said...

all you lawyers are breakin the law, I'm glad i went to Library school instead of Law school

Bart G said...

A lawyer, that's WHY we're friends!

MtbAllDay said...

I am very confident that spinning through there on the hoods at about 200 W would hypothetically put me right about 33 MPH.