I liked the original headline for this article much better, but in our world of the 24 hour news cycle nothing stays the same as it was. I can't even find a link to the original article/headline. I think the new (for now) headline is much weaker.
Oh, and my top favorite story from the Oregonian so far this week? The paper has announced their new publisher will be Christian Anderson III, formerly publisher and CEO of the Orange County Register. Can you say fair and balanced? NOT!
Hit-and-run driver claimed he didn't see 6-foot-tall orange rabbit on the pedicab
By Aimee Green, The Oregonian
October 28, 2009, 8:58PM
Pedicab driver Kate Altermatt still can't believe the driver of a Mercedes didn't see her pedaling down Northwest Fourth Avenue last Easter. Altermatt, who is 6 feet tall, was wearing a bright orange bunny suit, and the Cascadia Pedicab was lit up with reflectors and a blinking red light.
"I was very visible," she said.
The crash sent her flying and totaled the pedicab. She lay stunned on the pavement for a minute, then walked over to the driver's side window. She said she smelled alcohol on his breath.
"He was like '$100! $100 and I leave,'" Altermatt recalled. "And I was like, no. I started screaming. I said 'You're drunk! You're going to go to jail! I don't want your money!'"
Wednesday in Multnomah County Circuit Court, Altermatt finally got to confront the driver, who testified that he didn't see the pedicab because he was fumbling for a dropped cell phone.
After a daylong trial, Judge Karin Immergut found Edward Cespedes-Rodriguez guilty of hit-and-run driving for leaving the scene of the crash.
But Immergut cleared the 34-year-old Southwest Portland man of recklessly endangering another person. That disappointed Altermatt, who testified that Cespedes-Rodriguez looked her in the eye and intentionally hit her a second time as he sped away sometime after 2 a.m. April 12.
Altermatt said a second pedicab operator tried to get Cespedes-Rodriguez to step out of his car. Instead, Altermatt said, the driver jerked the car into reverse and backed half a block onto Davis Street. She said she and the other pedicab driver, Damon Kelly, managed to step in front of the car, and that's when Cespedes-Rodriguez stepped on the gas.
Altermatt testified that she rolled over the hood of the car, later suffering soreness to her head, shoulder and thigh and a jammed finger. She also said that Kelly, who didn't appear in court to testify, rolled over the hood, too. In the process, he must have cracked the windshield with the brass knuckles he was carrying for protection.
Defense attorney David Lesh tried to discredit Altermatt's testimony by questioning why Kelly didn't appear in court to testify. Portland police Officer Susan Abrahamson said she wrote in her report that Kelly told her he wasn't struck by the car, but that he hit the car as it was leaving the scene.
Lesh accused Kelly of bashing Cespedes-Rodriguez's car, causing $5,000 worth of damage. Lesh argued that his client had to choose between two evils -- sticking around to exchange information or fleeing for his own safety.
In the end, the judge agreed, saying the dents and cracked windshield must have been caused by someone purposely striking the car.
But the judge said Cespedes-Rodriguez could still have stopped his car at a safe distance and notified the police. He faces a penalty ranging from probation to up to one year in jail when sentenced next month.
Cespedes-Rodriguez was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving in 2005, but he entered a diversion program that required treatment, and a judge dismissed the case in 2006.
Prosecutors didn't charge Cespedes-Rodriguez with drunken driving for the April 2009 crash. Deputy district attorney Michael Schmidt said Cespedes-Rodriguez twice dodged the attempts of police to contact him later on the day of the crash, so no alcohol test could be taken. Authorities issued a warrant for his arrest in June.
"He hit somebody. He panicked because he was worried he was under the influence of alcohol," Schmidt said.
Altermatt said pursuing criminal charges against Cespedes-Rodriguez has been a struggle from the beginning. After the incident, when she ran to a nearby Portland police officer, she said, he dismissed her pleas for help. Perhaps, she thinks, because she was wearing a bunny suit.
About 45 minutes after the incident, she found another cop, who took a report.
Altermatt said the reason she pressed for prosecution was because she felt that Cespedes-Rodriguez treated her like a piece of garbage -- something that could be run over without another thought.
"This is probably the worst thing that has happened to me - being intentionally run over by a car. I felt like a Burger King bag."
-- Aimee Green