Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Motorist Who Struck Mary Robicheaux In Anchorage Crosswalk Has A Previous DUI; Bicyclists Often Viewed As Prey In Anchorage

Update October 22nd: Nearly $19,000 was collected in two fundraisers for Mary Robicheaux over the weekend of October 19-21; update on Mary's medical condition in this post.

Anchorage Police are investigating a collision that took place between a motorist and a bicyclist on August 28th, 2012, to determine if the motorist was either distracted or impaired, and the Alaska Court System database indicates the motorist has a previous record of traffic offenses, some of them alcohol-related. One of them is a DUI.

Around 8:00 P.M., 21-year-old Jordan Tuttle was headed westbound on Northern Lights Blvd. when he encountered a pedestrian crosswalk south of Nichols Street. The crosswalk was displaying the flashing red lights that indicate a pedestrian was crossing. The pedestrian was 13-year-old Mary Robicheaux, a student at Winterberry Charter School who was biking south across the crosswalk; she was wearing a helmet. According to witnesses, Tuttle noticed the flashing red light, but too late to stop in time; he struck the girl, who was severely hurt. Paramedics rushed Robicheaux to Providence Hospital, where she was listed in critical condition. She is now said to have brain trauma, multiple broken bones in both legs and a possible spinal injury.

On August 31st, Robicheaux's condition was upgraded from critical to serious. Police are not awaiting the results of Tuttle's blood test to determine how to proceed next.

A support website for Mary Robicheaux has been set up:

http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/getwellmary

Police are still investigating and have not yet ruled on any specific cause. But on a hunch, I entered Jordan Tuttle's name into the Alaska Court System database, and I found he has a history of four offenses between 2007-2012, three of them alcohol-related. Most significantly, Tuttle pleaded no contest to DUI in October 2007 (Case No. 3AN-07-08808CR).

The fact that Tuttle has a past DUI is no guarantor that he was impaired this time; it is equally possible that he may have been distracted long enough to take his eyes off the road, after which he noticed the flashing red light too late to react in time. Tuttle himself told officers he was blinded by the low sun angle.

Comments which were appended to the original ADN story do indicate the continuing cold war that exists between bicyclists and motorists in Anchorage. This is attributable to the ambiguous status of cyclists; they are not always treated as traffic, and they do not always act as traffic. And although our bicycle trail system permits cyclists to move through much of the city without directly competing with motorists, most of our principal streets do not have bike lanes.

In Europe, motorists are expected to treat cyclists as traffic, and cyclists are expected to act like traffic. The latter means cyclists obey all traffic laws when they ride upon the streets; they are not allowed to ride on sidewalks. We will need a serious culture change here in this country to get people to think the same way.

Killers Of Kevin Thornton Cop Plea Deal; Two Plead Guilty To Second-Degree Murder, Receive 20-Year Prison Term

A big step towards closure in the Kevin Thornton case was taken on August 22nd, 2012 when the three perpetrators learned their fate after accepting plea deals. The details of the crime are discussed in this previous post.

Richard Shelby Whybark, now 18, and Timothy Tyler Norwood, 18, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and each were sentenced to 20 years in prison by Arkansas 7th Circuit Court Judge Ed Koon. Whybark was credited for time already served. The third defendant, Clinton Lavon Ross, 17, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge, aggravated assault, a felony. He was sentenced to five years probation, plus six years in suspended jail time, which could be imposed if he violates the conditions of his release. Ross chased Thornton but did not participate in the beating.

All three defendants were also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, $150 in court costs and a $250 DNA fee.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Richard Garrett was not reluctant to take the case to trial, but was concerned the perps might have received a lighter sentence because of their youth and the fact that two of them had a negligible criminal history. Garrett sought approval from Thornton’s parents, who live in Juneau, before going ahead with the deal.

Thornton’s mother, Darlene Thornton, read the following victim's impact statement at the hearing: “Kevin’s death has been devastating to our whole family. It has hit us all emotionally and financially, some of us physically. You have taken away the life of our son: the wedding that could have been, the grandchildren that we will never hold and the brother that his sister (is) missing so strongly. Only in time will justice truly be served.”

Alaska 2012 Primary Election: Ballot Measure Two Gets Shot Down, Two Incumbent Republicans In The Senate Bi-Partisan Working Group Defeated

The 2012 Alaska primary election is in the record books, and almost all votes have been counted. Voters were smart enough to reject a controversial coastal management zone proposal, and two incumbent Republican state senators who joined the Senate Majority Bi-Partisan Working Group are on their way to defeat. This may presage the long-overdue demise of the Working Group, which has given the State Senate the reputation as being the place that bills go to die.

-- Raw election data available HERE.

Alaska Dispatch live-blogged the election results in part, and their reporters provide interesting an useful information. Results for the two ballot measures and the more hotly-contested legislative races discussed below.

Ballot Measure One: This proposal to allow boroughs and municipalities to raise the property tax exemption to $50,000 is still too close to call, with the Yes votes leading by 1.3 percentage points. However, the Yes votes have narrowly led all night, so it may pass. KTUU Channel 2 has more.

Ballot Measure Two: The proposed coastal zone management program is getting shot down in flames with a 62.3 percent No vote, and its defeat is now a certainty. Opponents successfully convinced voters that it was too complicated and bureaucratic, and that this type of legislation is best crafted by lawmakers who have the time and the expertise to develop a program best balancing all the competing interests.

U.S. House: On the Republican side, Don Young cruised to victory over two opponents. On the Democratic side, State Rep. Sharon Cissna has rolled past runner-up Matt Moore. But Don Young will be a heavy favorite to defeat Cissna in November, and he'll undoubtedly exploit Cissna's expressed reluctance to travel by air because of intrusive TSA screening.

Senate District C (Fairbanks-Valdez): On the Republican side, Click Bishop is enroute to victory over Ralph Seekins and David Eastman. Bishop was able to get support from organized labor without looking like a shill for them. Seekins got crushed in his bid for re-election to the State Senate in November 2006, and many voters still remembered why six years later. Not even an endorsement by the Alaska Family Council was enough to help Seekins. Read more on the outcome of this race in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Senate District D (Mat-Su): The Menard dynasty is crashing down, as Mike Dunleavy spanked incumbent Linda Menard by 16 percentage points. Dunleavy picked up an important endorsement from the Conservative Patriots Group, which is strong in Mat-Su. Menard is resented for the fact that she joined the unwieldy Senate Majority Bi-Partisan Working Group after she promised not to do so. Because there is no general election opponent, Dunleavy will become the district's senator.

Senate District H (Midtown Anchorage): Conservative Anchorage School Board member Don Smith defeated Clint Hess by 19 percentage points to secure the Republican nomination. Smith was able to shake off criticism over his principled opposition to the free school meals racket.

Senate District J (West Anchorage): In a surprising development, the more conservative Bob Bell thumped the less conservative Linda Vazquez in the Republican race. Bell did raise more money from established interests than Vazquez. I was concerned that Bell might be too far to the right to defeat Democratic incumbent Hollis French, but the need to get French out of the Senate is so great we need to get behind Bell. The really good news: Combined Republican votes were nearly twice as much as Democratic votes for French; if this trend holds, French is toast in November.

Senate District M (Northeast Anchorage/Eagle River): In a tightly-contested Democratic race, incumbent State Senator Bettye Davis narrowly defeated former State Rep. Harry Crawford by three percentage points. No matter -- Davis is a troglodyte who's been retired on active duty for the past four years, and Republican Anna Fairclough will lay the smack down on her in November.

Senate District O (Kenai): Big upset occurred in the Republican race; Soldotna Mayor Peter Micciche defeated incumbent Thomas Wagoner by 19 percentage points. Even a bump by Gov. Sean Parnell wasn't enough to help Wagoner, who may also have been hurt by his decision to join the Senate Majority Bi-Partisan Working Group. Read more about this race in the Peninsula Clarion.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

National GOP Platform Does NOT Call For A Ban On Abortion, But A Ban On Federal Funding Of Abortion

The Republican Party has just agreed on its national platform and has released it to the public. However, the media is already reporting erroneously on it. Spurred on by the Associated Press, media headlines are proclaiming that the GOP has OK'ed a platform barring all abortions.

This is bunk. Although the GOP calls for more restrictions on abortions, the GOP platform does NOT call for a ban on all abortions. Instead, it calls for a ban on federal funding on all abortions. Big difference. From the GOP Platform Portal Page, go to the section entitled "We The People: A Restoration of Constitutional Government", then go to the subsection entitled "The Sanctity And Dignity Of Human Life". Screenshot provided below:

Click image for larger version

As you can plainly see, there is NO language in that platform statement that either explicitly or implicitly calls for a ban on all abortions. Such a blanket ban would be indefensible and unenforceable, since the majority of us pro-lifers can accept therapeutic abortion, which I define as abortion to save life and/or protect fundamental health. Even abortion in the cases of rape and incest are becoming more acceptable to us, albeit on a case-by-case basis. What we don't accept is elective abortion; namely, abortion simply because a woman doesn't feel like having a kid.

Once again, the national media has deliberately misrepresented and misreported the GOP to make it look extremist. This is the same media that glosses over Democratic faults and makes Barack Obama look like the Obamessiah.