Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Hit and Run Cop Gets Jail Time

Lisa Smith, the former police officer who hit 13-year old Justin Richie and kept right on going, has been sentenced to 10 days in jail for her actions.

I've said all I care to say on this specific situation, so I'm not going to elaborate. But I do hope this sort of punishment (or preferably worse) comes to everyone who's convicted of this sort of thing. Drivers of the world need to get used to the fact that cyclists are out there riding all the time. With the way gas prices are going and the speed with which oil is getting used up, there is going to be more of us than you pretty soon.

Well, a guy can dream, huh?
Driver had been at a bar shortly before she hit boy on bike
Wednesday, May 7, 2008 3:14 AM
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Lisa M. Smith became a police officer long before Justin Richie was born.

But yesterday, the home-schooled 13-year-old with a 2-inch scar on his forehead said he had learned a lesson that seemingly had evaded Smith.

"I've learned not to drink and drive," Justin said in Franklin County Municipal Court.

Smith, 44, began serving a 10-day sentence in the Franklin County jail yesterday for smashing her car into Richie on Nov. 3 while he was riding his bicycle in Grove City, then leaving the scene. She pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of hit-and-run driving in March and was found guilty by Judge Scott D. VanDerKarr.

She had been a Columbus police officer for 17 years and was on the vice squad before being fired April 28.

A police investigation showed that Smith called in sick on Nov. 3, then watched an Ohio State University football game at a Grove City bar where her son worked. She signed a receipt for several drinks 30 minutes before she struck Justin, who was sent flipping over the handlebars and was knocked unconscious.

Justin's mother, Janet Corkadel, said the call from the hospital that day was a mother's nightmare.

"He's my only child, and he was almost taken from me," Corkadel said. "That's why, Ms. Smith, I have no sympathy for you whatsoever. You are a disgrace not only to the badge but to the community itself."

Smith did not respond or apologize in court.

The lack of an apology "made me feel mad," Justin said. "She wouldn't even look at me. I'm ecstatic" that she was sent to jail.

Corkadel said her son has "suffered severely." He has had nightmares about the crash and sometimes fears being in a car. His family can't afford to replace his bicycle, she said.

He also is grieving the loss of a 14-year-old friend, Raven McConnell, who died three days after being struck by a hit-and-run driver on Hoover Road in Grove City in March, Corkadel said.

Smith's attorney, Gregg Slemmer, said Smith didn't realize what had happened that day on Southwest Boulevard.

"If she was aware she had struck someone, she would have immediately stopped," Slemmer said. In addition to being "a tragedy for the victim, my client has lost her job and a career."

After Justin was struck, bystanders cared for him on the pavement, and a man followed Smith's van to a house on Carrigallen Lane on the West Side. When police arrived, she refused to answer the door for two hours.

Since the two-hour deadline had passed for alcohol breath tests, Grove City police said they were unable to charge her with a more serious offense.

In court, Smith's attorney asked for an extra week of freedom so she could get prescription medications in order. The judge denied the request.

"She may not have expected a jail sentence, but you knew today was coming," VanDerKarr said.

He suspended 170 days of the maximum sentence and placed Smith on probation for two years. He fined her $250, suspended her driver's license for two years and ordered her to perform 100 hours of community service.

Justin didn't buy Smith's excuse that she didn't know she had struck him. "If a 152-pound person hits your car, I think you'd know it," he said.

But, he added, "I know not all cops are bad. Most are pretty good."

bcadwallader@dispatch.com

People, not speed.

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