Wealthy fund manager avoids felony charges after running over cyclist because of… wealth

By David Edwards
Monday, November 8, 2010 12:15 EDT
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A fund manager for Smith Barney is getting off without felony charges after he allegedly ran over a cyclist with his Mercedes and fled the scene in Eagle, Colorado, because, the DA says, felony charges would be bad for the fund manager’s business.

Martin Joel Erzinger will not be charged with a felony because “Felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in Mr. Erzinger’s profession,” according to District Attorney Mark Hurlbert.

Erzinger oversees over $1 billion in assets for “ultra high net worth individuals, their families and foundations,” according to Worth.

Erzinger fled the scene July 3 after allegedly striking Dr. Steven Milo with his 2010 Mercedes Benz sedan on Highway 6, according to court documents. Erzinger later called the Mercedes auto assistance service to ask for his vehicle to be towed but did not report the accident to law enforcement. He claims he was unaware the cyclist had been hit.

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

“Milo suffered spinal cord injuries, bleeding from his brain and damage to his knee and scapula, according to court documents,” Randy Wyrick for reported Vail Daily. “Over the past six weeks he has suffered ‘disabling’ spinal headaches and faces multiple surgeries for a herniated disc and plastic surgery to fix the scars he suffered in the accident.”

“He will have lifetime pain,” Milo’s lawyer, Harold Haddon, wrote. “His ability to deal with the physical challenges of his profession — liver transplant surgery — has been seriously jeopardized.”

Hurlbert explained that charging Erzinger with a felony could affect his job and ability to pay restitution. “When you’re talking about restitution, you don’t want to take away his ability to pay,” the DA said.

Richard Masoner of Cyclelicious is hoping cyclists will boycott a race in Vail next August.

“Stage 3 of the 2011 Quizno’s Pro Challenge on August 25 will be a time trial in Vail, Colorado,” Masoner wrote. “I’m making my travel plans for a visit to Colorado next August, and I will absolutely avoid the Vail stage. I encourage you to do the same, and to let the Eagle County Attorney’s office, Vail Valley Tourism and the Vail Chamber of Commerce know why you plan to skip a visit to Vail next August.”

Change.org has organized a petition titled “Don’t Drop Felony Charges Against Hit-and-Run Wealth Manager.”

The petition reads:

Traffic laws exist to motivate all drivers to act in a manner that is safe for other users of the road, including pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers. To those of us who rely on bicycles for transportation and recreation, enforcement of laws that ensure our safety on the road is vital.

The enforcement of traffic laws should not differ depending on a driver’s ability to write a check, but rather on the ability of the law to motivate drivers to drive safely. What Martin Joel Erzinger is accused of doing is clearly criminal, but dropping felony charges will set a message to drivers that the penalties for neglecting the welfare of others on the road, causing life-altering injury, and showing no concern for the victim might not be as serious as the law indicates.

While Martin Joel Erzinger would like to write a few checks and move on with his life, we must ensure that actions such as his are punished to the full extent of the law. Please do not drop felony charges against Martin Joel Erzinger.

But Reuters’ Felix Salmon doubts the petition will have much effect.

“In other words, Erzinger has bought his way out of a felony charge, over the strenuous objections of his victim; it’s very unlikely that online petitions will do any good at this point,” Salmon observed. “Just another thing to add to the list of things that money can buy, I suppose.”

David Edwards
David Edwards
David Edwards has served as an editor at Raw Story since 2006. His work can also be found at Crooks & Liars, and he's also been published at The BRAD BLOG. He came to Raw Story after working as a network manager for the state of North Carolina and as as engineer developing enterprise resource planning software. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidEdwards.
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