Just saw this on the AMA site.
Driver kills three motorcyclists, pays $70 in fines
Mar. 9 – In Iowa, a man driving a van crossed the centerline of a road and hit six approaching motorcyclists head-on, killing three and seriously injuring two others.
Recently he was fined $70—a penalty that the state’s attorney general is now asking the state Supreme Court to review with an eye on allowing a stiffer fine and jail time.
The case involves Gary Lee Butler, 49, of Des Moines, who was convicted of failing to maintain control of his van, and driving on the wrong side of the road. The high court hasn’t indicated whether it will hear the case.
On June 22, 2002, Butler was driving a van along U.S. Highway 30 near Chelsea, west of Cedar Rapids, when he crossed the centerline and plowed into six motorcyclists. Motorcyclists Arlen Pickering, 53, of Story City, Douglas Sampson, 51, of Ames, and Ross Holland, 57, of Boone, were killed in the crash.
Motorcyclist Richard Vauble of Ames lost his right leg above the knee, while James Olson, of Ames, spent almost four months in the hospital unconscious. Wayne Wierson, also of Ames, suffered minor injuries.
In January, a jury found Butler not guilty of three counts of vehicular homicide and two counts of serious injury by vehicle. A judge then found Butler guilty of the two traffic violations and on February 5 fined him $70.
Tama County Attorney Brent Heeren, who prosecuted the case, was outraged over the fines and believes the judge could have imposed as much as 60 days in jail and $1,000 in fines for the two traffic infractions. He pushed to have the decision considered by the Iowa Supreme Court.
“I don’t think two $35 fines where three people are dead and two seriously injured was justice,’’ Heeren told the Des Moines Register.
Wierson expressed similar sentiments.
“I don’t know if we are victims of the system or whether I am being paranoid that people who ride motorcycles don’t count as much as other people,” Wierson told the Ames Tribune. “For the widows and the two people seriously hurt, it doesn’t seem to be quite right.”
Meanwhile, several civil suits have been filed in the case.
This is just the latest example of what the AMA considers to be the inadequate sentencing of a motorist who seriously injures or kills motorcyclists. The most high-profile case recently occurred this summer in South Dakota, where then-U.S. Rep. Bill Janklow sped past a stop sign at a rural intersection at 70 mph or more and collided with motorcyclist Randolph Scott, 55, of Minnesota, killing him. Janklow was sentenced to 100 days in jail as a result, and was ordered to pay $11,000 in fines and fees. He also loses his drivers license for three years, and will be on probation for three years.
He began his jail term February 7.
The AMA has launched a new nationwide initiative called “Justice for All” that will focus on inadequate sentencing of car drivers who seriously injure or kill motorcyclists.
The campaign will advocate legislation establishing tougher penalties when traffic offenses or criminal actions by other motorists result in a motorcyclist’s death or serious injury, a move that also would benefit other vulnerable road users such as bicyclists and pedestrians. The program will include cooperation with state land local motorcycling organizations, efforts by AMA Community Councils, and a variety of opportunities for individual motorcyclists and other concerned citizens to become involved.
“Justice for All” also will feature events that coincide with the 2004 Black Hills Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota.
© 2004, American Motorcyclist Association