Vail hit-and-run driver walks free from court

Plea bargain accepted in Steven Milo case

A US businessman who left a cyclist for dead in a hit-and-run incident last summer has walked free from court after striking a plea bargain.

Dr Steven Milo was left with severe injuries after the collision in Vail Valley, Colorado. News that the driver who hit him, Martin Erzinger, was going to be allowed to plead guilty to misdemeanor rather than felony charges caused widespread anger in the cycling community last month.

Yesterday Erzinger returned to court for sentencing and was given a year's probation and a 90-day jail term, according to the Vail Daily News. Under the terms of the deal, that sentence is suspended until 1 January, when he has the option to select 60 days' work release from the county jail or 45 days of charity work.

Dr Milo had always pursued the greater felony charge instead of the two lesser misdemeanor traffic charges, despite the fact it could be wiped from Erzinger’s record in as little as two years. His attorney, Harold Haddon, filed a motion last week requesting that the court reject the lesser plea.

Colorado District Attorney Mark Hurlbert caused outrage last month when he was quoted in the Vail Daily News as saying: "Felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in Mr Erzinger's profession, and that entered into it."

Dr Milo, a New York City physician suffered a spinal cord injury, herniated disc, bleeding from his brain and injuries to his knee and shoulder blade in the crash on July 3, along with multiple abrasions to his body.

Erzinger, a Morgan Stanley Smith Barney financial manager, fled the scene but police found him in a parking lot at a local pizza parlour, phoning Mercedes’s roadside assistance team to report the damage to his car.

In court he claimed that both severe sleep apnea and the ‘new car smell’ – referring to the offgassing – of the interior of his 2010 Mercedes-Benz contributed to the collision and the reason why he wasn’t aware he'd hit the cyclist.

According to the Vail Daily News, Dr Milo told District Court Judge Frederick Gannett that Erzinger was manipulative from the beginning of the case and he has yet to take responsibility. “The ‘fairy tales’ of sleep apnea and a leather car smell are embarrassing and insulting,” said Dr Milo.

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