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Ask Our Lawyer - February 2008

How far will some go to cover their ass?–A “some cops” phenomenon.

The story starts out ok. A cop gets a lead, does some footwork, develops a theory – and nabs a suspect. But what happens when the footwork is off the mark? What should happen then? I would like to think that the cop would fess up and put it right.

Here is a sad tale. Brian is an A.B.A.T.E. member, a dedicated State employee, living the life of a good American. He is so good that he has never even had a speeding ticket.

Part of Brian’s job is to take salvage copper to a salvage yard, and return the receipt and the check to his boss. While doing his job, and trying to work his way up the ladder, Brian noticed that a drum of copper wire remnants from a rewire job was missing. Brian reported the missing drum of copper wire salvage to his supervisor. Brian’s supervisor did the right thing and reported the theft to the authorities.

This is where the story goes terribly wrong. An immediate visit by the investigating police officer over the loss of $27.62 worth of salvage copper wire seemed to prove that police business was slow– perhaps quotas were down? Things got heated between Brian and the officer right after “Hello.” The cop then, collecting his “evidence,” went to the copper buying place and got the film showing Brian delivering a drum of copper. The investigating officer saw two barrels on the film and jumped to the conclusion that Brian had palmed the funds from the second barrel. The cop then reported his suspicions to the State. Brian was then retired from his job and charged with a crime of theft. Now, Brian has no job, no money, and no lawyer [except maybe me]. It has been a while since I have done the criminal defense thing, but if ever there was a case a lawyer should get involved with, it is this kind of case.

Sometimes you have an instinct, and sometimes you have the facts, and in this case Brian has both on his side. Brian did not take anything, and we have promised to help him prove it, and maybe with a little footwork we can get this charge dismissed, get his job back, and most importantly, we at A.B.A.T.E. can help right a terrible wrong.

Stay tuned on this one.

The best way to hit an 8 point buck and win, kinda sorta.

Some days are meant to be bad. October 8 is a forever bad day for Dan [a/k/a Danimal] Henry from Ohio–or should we call him Sir Dan? [You will figure out why later]. Dan is from southeastern Ohio and rides with the Region 9 and Region 1 people. While riding through southern Ohio on his way to Point Pleasant [birth place of President Ulysses S. Grant], Dan had a meeting with an 8-point buck at 50 plus miles an hour. Actually, this area heading towards the Ohio River is one of the most beautiful places in the world. I hope those folks that live in that area know how lucky they are.

Back to Sir Dan. I have always been curious as to the best way to hit a deer–if you are going to hit one. After conducting numerous interviews with riders who have had that unfortunate experience, I have concluded that Sir Isaac Newton is 100% correct. If you are going to hit a deer, hit it at the lowest possible speed. I have talked with bikers who have laid their bike down; I have talked with bikers who have hit the brakes and swerved. The informal result of my poll indicates those who have hit the brakes, even though they make contact with the deer, fare better than those who lay their motorcycle down.

The MSF folks hedge on the merits of laying your bike down as opposed to braking. They opine that if you have time to think about laying the bike down, you also have that same element of time to avoid and brake. I think the MSF folks are “probably” right, although after talking with numerous people who have confronted this experience the overriding impression is none of them knew what they were going to do until they were confronted with the situation before hand.

In Sir Dan’s instance, he is riding one of the most beautiful motorcycles God ever made. It is an 883 Special Edition Harley Davidson Sportster with the orange tank and fenders and everything but the kick stand, black powder coated. On that day, Dan, in no way was going to lay his beloved Harley down on U.S. 35 to avoid a deer. As in the typical survivor story of deer collisions, it is dusk and mating season, and this 8-point buck with love on his mind came from nowhere at full speed.

Besides hitting the brakes, Dan elected to “joust with this 8-point buck” and put his left leg up in an effort to deflect any impact the deer would have with his motorcycle. This is after several vaudevillian attempts on his and the deer’s behalf to zag and zig. They both got it wrong. After the jousting match with the 8-point buck, Sir Dan was able to squeeze the gas tank with his upper portion of his leg, which was intact, and coast to the side of the road. Of course, he would not have been able to down shift and his description of getting off the bike is painful to recall.

Friends following him in a car were able to retract the kick stand, and with careful assistance guided his left leg over the tank and help him off the bike until assistance arrived. I still recall his description of the deer’s eyes being round and “black as coal.” The deer was also described as frothing from the mouth and nostrils like he had been in one heck of a hurry for a date. At the point of impact, the deer’s head came to rest in Dan’s face/lap.

His attempt to joust with the deer was successful, kinda sort of. It deflected the deer to the left allowing Dan to maintain control of the motorcycle. Unfortunately, for Sir Dan, his jousting leg [by the way Dan is 230 and 6'4"] left him with a leg break at the ankle and just below the knee. Dan’s bike survived without a scratch and by January Dan was up and riding, but with a price. He has a titanium rod from his ankle to his knee. He no longer is able to run, walking is difficult, sitting for any length of time is problematic, and you can guess the rest. He is, however, grateful to be alive and he is an avowed believer of the following: never, ever, ever, ride after dusk or before dawn, especially on State highways where sideways visibility is limited. On most interstates, the rules may be different in that a rider may have as much as five times more than the visibility afforded by a two-lane road or a state highway.

After saying all this, I am not sure any of us will know what to do when confronted with the deer from Hell with dating on his mind. But I do know that we can do two things to minimize being involved with a deer: avoid dusk and dawn (especially during mating season) and recall Sir Isaac Newton’s maxim that if you are going to hit something, hit it as slow as you can.

No one wants to be a roman general anymore.

Growing up in my era, being a Senator, a Congressman, a Governor, was as good as it got. Talk to our young folks today, and they think no such thing. Few want anything to do with elective office and fewer still want to be a general. In today’s environment, I understand the burdens of public service, but unless we reverse the thinking of our young, we will find out the hard way why the Roman Empire fell.

A cautionary tale

Mike Seiler in Indiana let us know the sad story of fellow biker in California. A Santa Clara man was severely injured when, while riding his motorcycle, he struck a rope that had been strung across the road. Apparently, a neighbor had set up the trap in order to deter bikes from using the road. The neighbor had become angry over noise on the road. Whatever was strung across the roadway, possibly a length of rebar, caught the rider across the upper lip, hurling him 30 feet from his motorcycle and leaving him with 500 stitches, missing teeth and titanium plates in his head. The three neighbors charged in the crime face eight years in jail for assault.

While there’s no predicting what someone is going to do, it makes sense for us as riders to be extremely attentive to our surroundings, especially if there is some on-going bad blood with surrounding property owners. There’s no telling when some other fool might try something similar.


Ride Safe and Free,

Rod Taylor

A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services

If you have any questions you would like to ask the lawyer, please submit them to: Ask Our Lawyer, P.O. Box 2850, Indianapolis, Indiana 46206_2850, or email rodtaylor@abatelegal.com. © 2005, A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services