Ernesto Ghost BikeBy Rick Price, Ph.D.

Four local bicycle advocates met with Larimer County District Attorney Cliff Riedel and Chief Deputy District Attorney Andrew Lewis on Monday in the District Attorney’s Office in the Justice Center.  The goal of the meeting was to try and understand the facts of the hit and run case against Theresa Marie O’Connor who, on January 25, 2014 hit and killed Ernesto Wiedenbrug while driving North on the frontage road along Interstate 25, South of Kechter Rd.  O’Connor pled guilty to leaving the scene of an accident, a Class 3 Felony, and careless driving resulting in death, a Class 1 Traffic Offense. 

The four bicycle advocates are active in the local bicycling community.  They are, Rick Price, a League Cycling Instructor and Safe Cycling Coordinator at the Fort Collins Bike Co-op, Dan Porter, owner of Your Group Ride, LLC a Fort Collins based cycling news web site, Jennifer Langford Brooks former co-owner of The Cycologist bike shop and Jim Rinker, former Earn-A-Bike Coordinator at the Ft. Collins Bike Coop.

Frustrated with the lack of information about the case and with recent newspaper reports that Ms. O’Connor may face no jail time, the four asked to meet with the district attorney to clarify some of these issues. 

Attorney General Riedel began the meeting clarifying that both he and his deputy attorney general are bound by law and by the guidelines of their profession to make no statements to the public that might prejudice a case in progress.  He further made it clear that until Ms. O’Connor is sentenced on July 2nd his office cannot discuss any details of the case.  

What Mr. Riedel and Mr. Lewis did say was that in the process of their negotiations for a plea bargain with the defendant and her attorney, Mr. Brad Allin, the wishes of the victim’s family were taken into full consideration.  Indeed, in a follow-up conversation afterwards with Attorney David Johnson, who represents Ernesto’s family in the proceeding, Johnson made it clear that the district attorney’s office was very willing to hear any and all feedback from the family about resolution of the case.

When asked what considerations will go into final sentencing for O’Connor, Riedel listed several: 1) input from the family including a possible victim impact statement; 2) considerations from both the District Attorney’s Office and the defense attorney; 3) information provided by the County Probation Department in a “Pre-sentence Investigation and Report;” 4) a report from Community Corrections as to their ability to accommodate the court’s sentence; and, finally 5) comments from the defendant. 

Riedel and Lewis made it clear that sentencing is entirely up to the judge based on the above considerations.  A driver’s license revocation is likely, community service is a possibility, and some time under the supervision of community corrections is also possible. In an email from last week, Linda Jensen of the DA’s office stated, “Based upon her pleas of guilty and the results of the presentencing investigation, Ms. O’Connor could receive a sentence to the Department of Corrections for up to twelve years and a fine of up to $750,000.00.  The Court also has the option to sentence her to a community corrections facility for up to twelve years or to a term of supervised probation.  Once again, the Court would have the option of imposing a fine of up to $750,000.00.”

Once sentencing occurs the District Attorney and the family’s attorney made it clear that they will be glad to discuss the details of the case with those interested.  Until then, however, they are muted by law.  Riedel encouraged the four and anyone else interested to attend O’Connor’s sentencing appearance on July 2nd at 2 p.m. in courtroom 3A in the Larimer County Justice Center.

Editors notes-

While the DA didn’t appear to be pursuing jail time for Ms. O’Connor, it is still on the table and up to the judge’s discretion. Even though the Mr Riedel and Mr. Lewis weren’t able to specifically say, I got the distinct impression that the family of Ernesto was not in favor of jail time for Ms. O’Connor. Personally I believe that the victim’s family’s wishes should come before anyone elses. If they are happy with the plea agreement, we must respect that.  Again, this is just my opinion.

Miss O’Connor’s sentencing is on July 2nd at 2 p.m. in courtroom 3A in the Larimer County Justice Center.  I implore all of you to please attend this sentencing. Even if the punishment in this case doesn’t send a message that we won’t tolerate this behavior, our presence can send that message.  My family and I will be in attendance. If you do attend, please ride to the court house and as a show of unity, please keep your helmets on in the courtroom. 

Dan Porter

Owner, Your Group Ride LLC