Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls
from: althouse.blogspot.com

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hit and run

A friend sent me word of this outrageous case out in Colorado:

EAGLE, Colorado — A financial manager for wealthy clients will not face felony charges for a hit-and-run because it could jeopardize his job, prosecutors said Thursday.

Martin Joel Erzinger, 52, faces two misdemeanor traffic charges stemming from a July 3 incident when he allegedly hit bicyclist Dr. Steven Milo from behind then sped away, according to court documents.

Milo and his attorney, Harold Haddon, are livid about the prosecution's decision to drop the felony charge. They filed their objection Wednesday afternoon, the day after prosecutors notified Haddon's office by fax of their decision....

Erzinger, an Arrowhead homeowner, is a director in private wealth management at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in Denver. His biography on Worth.com states that Erzinger is “dedicated to ultra high net worth individuals, their families and foundations.”

Erzinger manages more than $1 billion in assets. He would have to publicly disclose any felony charge within 30 days, according to North American Securities Dealers regulations.

Milo wrote in a letter to District Attorney Mark Hurlbert that the case “has always been about responsibility, not money.”

“Mr. Erzinger struck me, fled and left me for dead on the highway,” Milo wrote. “Neither his financial prominence nor my financial situation should be factors in your prosecution of this case.”

Hurlbert said Thursday that, in part, this case is about the money.

“The money has never been a priority for them. It is for us,” Hurlbert said. “Justice in this case includes restitution and the ability to pay it.”

Hurlbert said Erzinger is willing to take responsibility and pay restitution.

“Felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in Mr. Erzinger's profession, and that entered into it,” Hurlbert said. “When you're talking about restitution, you don't want to take away his ability to pay.”

Driving carelessly and causing serious injuries to a bicyclist demands that the driver do something to make up for his actions. If Mr. Erzinger had stopped, and called an ambulance, then maybe the prosecutor would be justified in declining to pursue felony charges in the case. Yet this wasn't like that. Mr. Erzinger tried to evade responsibility, fleeing the scene without any consideration for the fate of his victim. If a felony conviction would derail Mr. Erzinger's lucrative career, so what? Why this special consideration for a man of wealth? If a poor window-washer commits a felony, would this prosecutor let him off the hook because of the financial devastation a felony conviction would cause? The poor man doesn't have as far to fall, but he'll fall all the same. I can remember in legal history learning about the different values placed on the life of a serf or a noble. Killing the former would trigger the payment of a small fine, killing a lord was a capital offense. Is our society slipping back to a place where equality before the law is no longer the ideal?

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