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#26 2020-01-22 12:11:11

btrettel
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Registered: 2013-10-01
Posts: 60

Re: Justin Lewis threatens Austin cyclist w/screwdriver 9/25/2019

I spoke with the same attorney who called me earlier. They now have the video and showed it to the defense.

Apparently the defense's lawyer indicated that the defendant didn't do anything wrong because I wasn't in the bike lane. This is ridiculous as bike lane use is not required when turning left, in fact, to my knowledge you're required to move from the bike lane. (I checked the TTC, sections 551.103 and 545.101b.) Plus, even if I was breaking the law, how does that justify breaking a worse one? Obviously this argument is weak.

The attorney I spoke with indicated that the defense might claim the defendant felt threatened by me following him. I made sure to leave plenty of space between myself and his vehicle when I approached because I didn't want to give the impression that I wanted to harm his vehicle or him. My only intention was to tell him to drive better. The attorney stressed that it could be hard to get a jury to understand why I followed the driver.

Anyway, he asked me if I'd be okay with offering to reduce the charge to disorderly conduct if he'll take an anger management class and bike safety class. What do you all think? I told him I'd give him an answer by Friday. I told him that I definitely want to see this go to trial.

Last edited by btrettel (2020-01-22 12:13:54)

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#27 2020-01-22 13:01:44

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,240
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Re: Justin Lewis threatens Austin cyclist w/screwdriver 9/25/2019

This is your case, not mine, but if it were me, no way in hell I would agree to Disorderly Conduct.  He *already* got an undeserved golden ticket from the DA charging him with a mere Class B Misdemeanor (Terroristic Threat) instead of the proper 2nd-Degree Felony (Aggravated Assault).  No more handouts.

btrettel wrote:

...the defense's lawyer indicated that the defendant didn't do anything wrong because I wasn't in the bike lane.

[bangs head on desk]

btrettel wrote:

The attorney stressed that it could be hard to get a jury to understand why I followed the driver.

Believable.  Non-bicyclists are clueless about what it means to ride a bike in this country.

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#28 2020-02-02 00:47:37

btrettel
Member
Registered: 2013-10-01
Posts: 60

Re: Justin Lewis threatens Austin cyclist w/screwdriver 9/25/2019

I said they could reduce the charge to disorderly conduct if he does what I mentioned earlier. Here's my thinking: Going from a misdemeanor to a lesser misdemeanor isn't much. The decrease from a felony to a misdemeanor was much more significant. If I were to do this again I would push the police harder to charge him with a felony. My thinking is that reducing the charge to disorderly conduct will increase the probability of a conviction, as I'm not confident that a jury would be sympathetic towards me. My main concern is for the defendant to improve their anger and hatred issues, but I also think having a criminal record would serve as a warning to others as I'm not confident the defendant will improve.

If this guy isn't convicted of merely disorderly conduct given the evidence, I think that would just show the extent of the bias against cyclists.

The next court date is February 21.

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#29 2020-02-02 01:44:07

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,240
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Re: Justin Lewis threatens Austin cyclist w/screwdriver 9/25/2019

You have a good point.  Me, I'd probably be willing to roll the dice to get the maximum penalty, even though it's not much.  But it's not my case, this is your rodeo, so it's entirely up to you.

BTW, are you sure this guy *doesn't* already have a record?  As insane as he is, I wouldn't be surprised if he already has a rap sheet.

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#30 2020-02-02 11:42:55

RedFalcon
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Registered: 2013-10-10
Posts: 211

Re: Justin Lewis threatens Austin cyclist w/screwdriver 9/25/2019

One good reason to push for a felony conviction for scum bags like this is to make it harder for them to possess a firearm.  Yeah, I know, we're in Texas where you can just about trade in your HEB Buddy Bucks to get a gun, but every little bit helps.  This guy is not the kind of stable genius we need with a conceal carry permit - which he could not get as a felon.

I agree it's a good idea to see if this guy already has a record. I'll bet he does, and I'll also bet it's not for some victim-less drug crime.

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#31 2020-02-02 12:06:39

btrettel
Member
Registered: 2013-10-01
Posts: 60

Re: Justin Lewis threatens Austin cyclist w/screwdriver 9/25/2019

Good point about firearms.

I don't know if the guy has a record or how to check if he does. The prosecution's attorney probably looked into it though, as he told me that he looked into whether I have a record but couldn't find anything. I assume that he did that because the defense might try to argue that I've made false claims before or something.

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#32 2020-02-02 20:22:41

RedFalcon
Member
Registered: 2013-10-10
Posts: 211

Re: Justin Lewis threatens Austin cyclist w/screwdriver 9/25/2019

Being a felon is no little thing. My GF is a felon, and believe me, having that on your record makes life much harder than you might think. Sure, granted, she made some poor choices early in life, but she was also a victim of our stupid fascist drug laws largely devised by that traitor and war criminal R. Nixon. In a civilized country, a person with a drug addiction is treated as a person with a health problem, not as a hardened criminal that needs to be destroyed and kept down in the cycle (see how I worked cycling into the rant) of poverty and despair. America is NOT a civilized country by any reasonable measure, and the constant conveyor belt of injustice proves that every day.  And your case is just one more example of how we are just a stupid place run by morons. And damn to hell every republican and go-along-to-get-along democrat for helping keep it so.

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#33 2020-02-03 00:54:50

btrettel
Member
Registered: 2013-10-01
Posts: 60

Re: Justin Lewis threatens Austin cyclist w/screwdriver 9/25/2019

I've said before that taking the budget for non-violent drug "offenses" and putting it towards violent offenses that are ignored (e.g., violence against cyclists) could lead to dramatic changes in bike safety. I sympathize with the police in that they don't really have the budget for bike safety issues, but it's not that our society doesn't have the money in general.

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#34 2020-02-18 12:57:34

btrettel
Member
Registered: 2013-10-01
Posts: 60

Re: Justin Lewis threatens Austin cyclist w/screwdriver 9/25/2019

An update from the attorney I've been in contact with:

He pled last week to the Disorderly Conduct charge we discussed, so no more court settings.  Up front he completed the bike safety class per your suggestion, an anger management class, and 15 community service hours – and paid a fine and court costs on the reduced charge.

Thank you for the time you put into providing us evidence, and discussing the incident with us.

So, in the end, a conviction.

The second piece of evidence was the fact that he was an Uber driver and Uber had GPS tracking placing him at the scene of the crime at the time of the crime. While most bad drivers aren't rideshare drivers, it's worth checking if they are because this extra piece of evidence proved crucial here. Uber didn't reply to the police's first subpoena, but after I sent them the video they coordinated with the police and the ball got rolling again. I don't know what happened the first time around.

One final thing that I learned from this: The camera I used records the time in the video, but not all video players will display the time. I didn't know this, and in fact, the time my camera was set to was wrong. I've set the time on the camera now and will keep this in mind in order to more accurately place when events occurred.

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#35 2020-02-19 00:56:36

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,240
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Re: Justin Lewis threatens Austin cyclist w/screwdriver 9/25/2019

I admire your lack of vindictiveness, and your practicality to make sure that there were at least some consequences.

I do still wish he'd gotten even some token jail time.  Anyone who threatens to kill another human being should get that, at least.  But we all know how unlikely that is in this country.

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#36 2020-02-24 22:51:02

ggw
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 31
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Re: Justin Lewis threatens Austin cyclist w/screwdriver 9/25/2019

@btrettel
I have followed your pursuit through the  legal system.
I applaud you for your fortitude and coming to terms with the outcome.

With a friend I followed (by being in the court) a vaguely similar case through the legal system from arrest to the end ... over a year's time and it was mind numbing to be sure. My friend & I were the only "public" ever in any of it though the aggrieved parties were in the dozens (I was one of them, my friend was not).

You have my admiration. Mine was an unpleasant education.

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#37 2020-02-25 00:12:25

btrettel
Member
Registered: 2013-10-01
Posts: 60

Re: Justin Lewis threatens Austin cyclist w/screwdriver 9/25/2019

ggw, I appreciate your support. Throughout this I kept in mind that this is a valuable opportunity to learn about how the legal system works, so even if there is no conviction, I can still learn something for next time. Because, unfortunately, we all know things like this will keep happening. This is just a small victory in the larger battle for respect on the road.

If you're willing to share your story, I'm interested in order to better learn how cyclists can navigate the legal system. Feel free to send me an email.

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#38 2020-02-25 03:44:59

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,240
Website

Re: Justin Lewis threatens Austin cyclist w/screwdriver 9/25/2019

btrettel, I've got a couple of literally decades-old articles here which could benefit from your recent and first-hand experience.  Do you have any interest in editing / adding to them?

How the wheels of justice work (or don't work)

What to Do if Hit or Harassed

The latter is on a site I sold a couple of years ago, but I'm confident the new owner would welcome any updates.

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#39 2020-02-27 00:25:48

btrettel
Member
Registered: 2013-10-01
Posts: 60

Re: Justin Lewis threatens Austin cyclist w/screwdriver 9/25/2019

I'd be happy to add what I can to those articles. At the moment there is little I can do aside from make a quick comment, however. Come June I should have time.

Just glancing at the articles, I think they are good in terms of what most people could do. I could offer some advice on interacting with the police, which to me basically came down to periodically checking in with them and also doing some of the work for them, like contacting Uber independent of the police. I also worked from the assumption that the police cared about my case and that any slowdowns were the result of them having too much work to do. In this case, those assumptions seem accurate. While I do think there's a lot APD needs to do on cycling issues, ultimately little of this frustration should come out when talking to the police. The most I did was mention that the guy wasn't being charged with almost hitting me despite that being illegal too, but clearly they decided to not charge him with that.

One thing not mentioned in those articles: Cyclists need to be more proactive. By the time an incident has occurred, if you don't have solid evidence, you've probably already lost your case. A helmet camera is part of this, but as my experience shows, it is not sufficient. We should make a list of good additional sources of evidence beyond witnesses. There are also some best practices involved with helmet cam usage like shouting out plate numbers. One random idea is to make a business card you can fill out in an incident to keep track of important information. A business card is small enough that cyclists can carry it with themselves at all times. Having a checklist reduces the chances of missing important details.

Last edited by btrettel (2020-02-27 00:27:49)

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#40 2020-02-27 06:26:29

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,240
Website

Re: Justin Lewis threatens Austin cyclist w/screwdriver 9/25/2019

Thank you for the suggestions, those are good.  I'm looking forward to June!

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#41 2020-02-27 15:20:26

RedFalcon
Member
Registered: 2013-10-10
Posts: 211

Re: Justin Lewis threatens Austin cyclist w/screwdriver 9/25/2019

A checklist is a fantastic idea.  When things go crazy, in any situation, it can be hard to keep a clear head and make the most of the time.

Checklist ideas:  Make it small and waterproof, maybe attach it to the bike frame so it is always there.  Include:
Write down licence plate number, make, model, and color of car
Description of the driver
Get names and phone numbers of any witnesses
Time of day and Road conditions
Reminder to not say anything that can be used against you later
Take a picture of your bike and what you are wearing, especially when you have multiple lights and hi-viz clothing on so you can establish that you were not 'invisible'

What else?

Also, when you get a chance to write up your story, please consider submitting it to Cyclist Video Evidence.

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