Outrage spilled into blogs across the country in November, after Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert told a newspaper that he was willing to reduce felony hit-and-run charges against wealthy financial manager Martin Joel Erzinger to a misdemeanor crime: "When you're talking about restitution, you don't want to take away his ability to pay," Hurlbert said, referring to the alleged potential for Erzinger to lose his job if convicted of a felony. Erzinger, who owns a home in Arrowhead and is director of private wealth management at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in Denver, hit cyclist Dr. Steven Milo, of New York, in Eagle over the summer. Milo required surgery for his spinal cord injuries and bleeding from his brain, among numerous other problems.
Yesterday, Erzinger had his day in court and fought the felony charges, as expected, pulling out all the stops in his defense. That included testimony from an accident reconstructionist that the "new-car smell" of his month-old Mercedes might have made him woozy, aggravating his sleep apnea, which could have caused him to fall asleep and drift into Milo, writes the Vail Daily.
It's not clear whether that defense would have worked; Erzinger struck a plea bargain Thursday to drop the felony, after all. Milo, who still has not recovered from his injuries, objected, according to 7News, arguing that Erzinger sought to "cover up and minimize his conduct," a claim backed by court records that say when Avon police tracked down Erzinger a few miles from the scene of the accident behind a Pizza Hut, Erzinger was placing a damaged bumper in the trunk of his car, along with a broken side mirror. Erzinger told the officer he did not realize he hit Milo, which Milo's attorney calls "incredible" considering the scene after Milo was struck.
Erzinger received one year of probation on a carless-driving charge and 90 days in county jail for failing to report the accident, notes Velo News. But the sentence was suspended until January, at which time Erzinger will pick an option: 60 days of work release or 45 days of charity work, which would require him to take a leave of absence from his job.