BCN—A bicyclist accused of striking and killing a pedestrian in San Francisco's Castro District nearly a year ago was ordered today to stand trial on a felony vehicular manslaughter charge.
Chris Bucchere, 36, was held to answer to the charge by Superior Court Judge Andrew Cheng after an emotional preliminary hearing that began Wednesday and ended this morning.
Prosecutors allege that Bucchere ran multiple red lights and a stop sign before striking Sutchi Hui, 71, at Castro and Market streets shortly after 8 a.m. on March 29, 2012.
Defense attorney Ted Cassman asked the judge to dismiss or reduce the charge, arguing that surveillance video of the collision showed that Bucchere had entered the Castro and Market intersection before the light turned red.
Cassman also said that pedestrians, including Hui, entered the crosswalk at the intersection before the "walk" signal turned on, limiting Bucchere's ability to avoid the collision.
"He had the right of way, the pedestrians did not," he said.
In arguing for the felony charge to be upheld, Assistant District Attorney Omid Talai called Cassman's arguments "false, misleading and inaccurate" and said Bucchere showed gross negligence prior to the crash.
"An ordinary person does not run two red lights, a stop sign, then another red light," Talai said.
Talai said Bucchere showed a lack of concern for the victim in a post he made on a cycling forum later on the day of the collision.
In that post, Bucchere said he wanted to dedicate the story to his "late helmet" that was destroyed in the crash. The post prompted criticism from other forum members and was later taken off the site.
"He is not dedicating this story to the man that he killed," Talai said.
Cassman said Bucchere "was concerned about Mr. Hui because he is a good man" and visited the hospital to check on him before he died days after the collision.
The judge eventually upheld the felony charge and ordered Bucchere to return to court for formal arraignment on March 21.
Cheng said Bucchere still has something to contribute to society but "is going to carry this mistake for the rest of his life."
Bucchere cried multiple times during this morning's hearing and walked quickly out of the courtroom afterward without responding to questions from reporters.
Cassman also declined to comment on the judge's ruling.
District Attorney George Gascon said he is "very pleased with the results this morning."
Gascon said he is not aware of any other felony manslaughter charge being filed in the state against a bicyclist in a collision. He said the judge upholding the charge this morning shows "there are real consequences for bad behavior and not following the traffic rules."