Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Should the Mayor of Sorrento, Louisiana Be Exempt From the Law?

A family is left bereft and in mourning. A wife and mother is left without her husband, their children a father. The death of this motorcyclist has left an untold number of friends and relatives battling the pain and sadness, and asking the simple question, why?

On Monday, October 14, 2007, in Sorrento, Louisiana, the local Mayor, Brenda Melancon, hit and killed a motorcyclist and severely injured his wife. The Mayor said, "I didn't see them coming."

Well, no duh. That's why when you get behind the wheel of a car, you're supposed to follow the laws of driving - and that means stop and look both ways before proceeding. But Mayor Melancon didn't do that. She pulled out of a private drive without stopping or looking and mowed down Jim Pickholtz and his wife, Amy. Jim is dead. Amy has suffered devastating and permanently crippling injuries, and her family is left without income.

And if that isn't bad enough, Amy must live life, such as it is, without her husband now, the love of her life. Their children must now live without their father. Jim was 41 years old. I call that murder, even if the criminal justice system does not. The Pickholtz family are the victims here, as are their extended family and friends. The perpetrator, namely the Mayor, must pay for her failure to value life enough to obey traffic laws. She must pay for her failure to not bother looking. The buck stops here, Mayor Melancon.

Mayor Brenda Melancon was arrested for negligent homicide, negligent injuring, and failure to yield from a private drive, a felony booking in the state of Louisiana. Well that's something anyway. Most of the time, no arrest is made, and often only a traffic ticket is handed out. That's how much value society places on the death of a motorcyclist. So this arrest and charges are a step in the right direction, right?

Well, the Mayor posted bail shortly after being arrested and continued to hold office while going through the legal system, even though she was booked on a felony! Does that make you feel all warm and fuzzy about our justice system?

Now, you can bet your last dollar that had this been you or I, in our civilian jobs, we would be without a job, in a heart-beat. That she was arrested for these crimes, and crimes they are, should warrant suspension in the very least! But the plot thickens..... read on.

Recently, Prosecuting Attorney, Paul Knight, who was working on the criminal case against Mayor Brenda Melancon, has been removed from the case. Hmmmm, do you suppose maybe the Mayor has some behind-the-scenes influence going on here? Maybe the Mayor didn't like Mr. Knight calling a spade a spade.

The case is now being handled by Dana J. Cummings, who is the Director of the Criminal Justice Department in the Attorney General's office.

If you look at
Louisiana's Office of the Attorney General home page, the tag line next to a smiling James D. "Buddy" Caldwell, Attorney General, reads:

"Deeply committed to preserving and protecting the health, safety, welfare, and legal interests of all of the citizens of Louisiana".

And if you drill in to the page that describes the
Criminal Division, the first sentence there reads as follows:

"The Criminal Division seeks justice on behalf of the citizens of the state of Louisiana by assisting federal, state and local agencies in the investigation and prosecution of a wide range of criminal matters."

Given that Amy Pickholtz (the victim) felt that Attorney Paul Knight was making progress in the prosecution of Mayor Brenda Melancon (the accused), I find it very interesting that he has been removed, and the case reassigned to someone else. I could find no explanation for this.

Without minimizing this case in any way, let me just say that this type of case is common these days. Motorcyclists are killed every day in this country through negligent drivers, without so much as an apology to the victim's surviving family. Case after case recorded has the offender "grinning and dancing out of the court room" with a mere $45 traffic fine - for killing an innocent human being through negligence.

How many times have we heard of someone going to jail over negligent use of a gun? Is this not the same? We have driving laws to protect us from each other. When you kill someone out of negligence, you should pay the price. As Amy Pickholtz says, "there needs to be justice, not just law". If we have laws to deter criminals, then the laws that protect us from death by negligent driver should be driven home with a large sledge hammer and pounded in until it is understood that when you get behind the wheel of a car, you are driving a very big weapon that motorcyclists cannot protect themselves from. Kill a biker, go to jail.

I see no evidence of guilt or remorse here. All I see is her proclaiming that she "looked". So sorry, I looked, so I'm not to blame for killing you. Brenda Melancon continues to do her "duties" as Mayor, takes home a paycheck, and still has her foo-foo dog to sleep with at night. While Amy lives in pain, both mentally and physically, and her children wonder why their daddy will never come home again.

And what does this teach others? That it's OK to kill someone and the excuse of "I didn't see them" is acceptable, when the law clearly states that you must yield the right-of-way? And in order to do that, you must STOP and LOOK first. It's been 36 years since I took Drivers Ed. I still remember that little "rule". Does the Mayor's excuse exempt her from guilt? Certainly not! But I bet she thinks her position as Mayor does, for I have no doubt (no proof, but no doubt) that she used some sort of influence to have Attorney Paul Knight removed from the case and another more controllable person assigned. My research of Dana Cummings shows that he is a brilliant attorney in criminal cases, but will he jeopardize his job in protecting the rights of Amy Pickholtz? Do I really need anyone to answer that question?

And therein lies the corruptness of our public servants. For in their arrogance they feel above the law. I can see it coming. The Mayor will be found liable for a traffic violation, but not of negligent homicide, and Dana Cummings will orchestrate the whole thing. Brilliance only works if you have that brilliance on your side. Dana cummings will not be questioned when he lets the Mayor go free.

So I'll be writing letters in a big way, to the smiling James D. "Buddy" Caldwell, Attorney General, and to Dana Cummings, Director of the Criminal Justice Department, as well as others. I want them all to know that they are now "under the microscope". I don't live in Louisiana, but these "negligent murders" happen in all states, and has an affect on all motorcyclists everywhere.

Public servants should be held to the statement and purpose they are in office to uphold. A Mayor is like anyone else when you strip away the arrogance and title. And Jim and Amy Pickholtz are just as deserving of life, liberty and happiness. One cannot remove the other without consequences. That is, if there's any justice.

If you're any sort of human being, if you have any compassion at all, you'll write letters too. We are a brotherhood/sisterhood and we watch each others' backs. Jim and Amy, and all of their family and friends, have suffered greatly, at the hands of a negligent driver, and she must pay, Mayor or not.

Remind them all of "Buddy's" words on his welcome page, "As your lawyer, I have a tremendous responsibility to protect the public as well as to uphold the laws and the Constitution of Louisiana", and demand that they uphold those words in prosecuting Mayor Melancon of her crimes against Jim and Amy Pickholtz.

You can write to them at the addresses below:

The Honorable James D. "Buddy" Caldwell, Attorney General
Louisiana Attorney Generals Office
Physical: 1885 North 3rd St.,
Baton Rouge, LA 70802
Mailing: P.O. Box 94005,
Baton Rouge, LA 70804
Phone: 225-326-6100
Email: caldwellj@ag.state.la.us

Dana J. Cummings
Director of Criminal Division, Louisiana Attorney Generals Office
Phone: 225-326-6200; fax: 225-326-6297
Email: cummingsd@ag.state.la.us, criminalInfo@ag.state.la.us

Ms. Linda Southhall, Assistant To The Attorney General
Fax: 225-326-6797
Email: southhalll@ag.state.la.us

Administrative Services Division:
Phone: 225-326-6705
Fax: 225-326-6793
Email: adminInfo@ag.state.la.us

Executive Division, John W. Sinquefield, First Assis. Attorney General:
Phone: 225-326-6705
Fax: 225-342-8703
Email: executive@ag.state.la.us

Investigation Division:
Phone: 225-326-6100, 800-488-2770
Fax: 225-326-6197; investigationInfo@ag.state.la.us

Litigation Division:
Phone: 225-326-6300, 225-326-6705
Fax: 225-326-6490
Email: litInfo@ag.state.la.us

Public Protection Division:
Phone: 225-326-6438
Fax: 225-326-6497
publicprotectionInfo@ag.state.la.us

You should also copy:

The Honorable Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 94004
Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9004
Phone: 225-342-7015
Fax: 225-342-7099
Possible emails for Governor Jindal: constituent@la.gov, info@bobbyjindal.com
Website: http://www.gov.state.la.us/

Email block for mass mailings:

caldwellj@ag.state.la.us, cummingsd@ag.state.la.us,
criminalInfo@ag.state.la.us, southhalll@ag.state.la.us,
adminInfo@ag.state.la.us, executive@ag.state.la.us,
investigationinfo@ag.state.la.us, litInfo@ag.state.la.us,
publicprotectioninfo@ag.state.la.us, constituent@la.gov,
info@bobbyjindal.com

*********************************************************************

Sample Letter:

Honorable Officials of Louisiana,

I have been watching the proceedings in the case of the death of Jim Pickholtz by negligent homicide, negligent injuring, and failure to yield from a private drive, in which Mayor Brenda Melancon was arrested and charged with a felony.

It is my understanding that Mayor Melancon has been allowed to continue her job as Mayor during these proceedings. I find that deplorable, while Amy Pickholtz is left without a husband and a family income, as well as permanently crippling injuries. Any other person would have lost their job or in the very least been suspended. One would think the Mayor is "special" and deserves better treatment than your average citizen.

Traffic rules are not guidelines. They are made into law to protect innocent citizens who abide by the law. Yielding the right-of-way requires a driver to stop and look for oncoming traffic before pulling out and making a left-hand turn. She stated that she looked both ways and then pulled out, but the crash was instantaneous; by her own words, she said she didn't even know what she hit. That's a good indication that Jim Pickholtz was much too close for her NOT to see him, IF she had looked. Everyone blames the small size of a motorcycle, but I always see them. Because I LOOK for them. And motorcycles have as much right to be on the road as any other legal vehicle. "I didn't see them", or "I looked" is an unsubstantiated excuse.

Failure to "see" another vehicle or motorcyclist, when a motorist does not look, makes it a willful act. Does her saying she looked make it so? No. Motorcyclists are always watching for those who would pull into their path, and would not willingly hit another vehicle if it can be helped. She was too close for him to do anything. She did NOT look.

The fact that Brenda Melancon is the Mayor should have no bearing on seeing justice done for Amy and her family. A public office does not exempt a person from paying the price of taking a life through negligence. A slap on the hand for Mayor Melancon is only assurance that others will also go unpunished for such negilgence. And let us not forget that such negligence took a life and severely damaged another.

I sincerely hope that removing Attorney Paul Knight from the case was done to strengthen the proceedings with a more knowledgeable Attorney, and not out of concern that Mr. Knight may prove the Mayor's guilt. As that would be criminal too.

As a motorcyclist, I am aware of the high number of deaths caused by a failure to yield, and/or negligence. In most cases the guilty party (proven so in court) is given a slap on the hand or a traffic fine for killing a motorcyclist/bicyclist/pedestrian. That "someone" could be me next time. And it is appalling that our court system cannot see fit to punish those who kill us needlessly. I am a motorcyclist, I am a law-abiding citizen. And never forget that I also vote.

Therefore, I am appealing to you, as a citizen of this country, who has a right to fair and thorough prosecution, regardless of the public office the alleged guilty party holds, to please see that justice is done for Amy Pickholtz. Her husband's death should not be passed off on the excuse of "I didn't see them". For had she truly LOOKED, Amy's husband might be alive today, and her injuries non-existent.

I would also remind you that on your website, the following quotes are displayed for all to see:

"Deeply committed to preserving and protecting the health, safety, welfare, and legal interests of all of the citizens of Louisiana".

and

"The Criminal Division seeks justice on behalf of the citizens of the state of Louisiana by assisting federal, state and local agencies in the investigation and prosecution of a wide range of criminal matters."

and

"As your lawyer, I have a tremendous responsibility to protect the public as well as to uphold the laws and the Constitution of Louisiana"

I urge you to prosecute to the full extent of the law, and to seek the maximum penalty for this death. Five years is nothing compared with what Amy Pickholtz must face the rest of her life. The American public must see that killing needlessly in this manner is not tolerated. Louisiana has the penalties for this crime, please show that your sworn oath to uphold the law applies to all citizens.

Respectfully,

Your Name
Your Address

*********************************************************************

"Drive it like a loaded 357, with a hair trigger."

9 comments:

Shirley Vandever said...

Thanks for the inspiration ... great post with all the information needed for action to be taken.

I'll be following this one ! My God, I feel for Amy and her family.

DUDLY said...

DUDE...IT WAS AN ACCIDENT!! YOU PEOPLE CHOOSE TO "RIDE" A DANGEROUS BIKE THAT IS LESS VISIBLE THAN ANYTHING ELSE ON THE ROAD...THEN, HAVE THE GALL TO COMPLAIN ABOUT NOT BEING SEEN!!! THE NERVE!!!...ALSO...NO HELMETS WERE WORN..TWICE AS STUPID!!

Sam said...

"You People"? "Dude"? My, my, your bigotry is showing. Not only am I not a "Dude" but motorcyclists are entitled to the same rights as you or anyone else. It's this kind of attitude that gets us killed in the first place.

Dudly, the only stupid thing motorcyclist's CHOOSE to do is expect other drivers to drive responsibly. I'm guessing you also feel that it's an accident if someone kills another with a gun.

Thank you for your comment. It only confirms your own stupidity. Next time, post your make, model and license plate so we can identify you before you run us down, out of your own stupidity.

pub said...

I agree with Dudly. These people has chosen to engage in high risk behavior, yet they are very quick to blame others for their decisions.

Russell said...

To compare:

Skateboarding is inherantly dangerous just like motorcycle riding, you can hurt yourself.

However, if an automobile Driver does not follow the traffic laws and runs up onto the sidewalk killing a skateboarder is that not negligant homicide?


Traffic laws were violated resulting in the death and injury of individuals. Even though their passion of riding motorcycles may be considered "high risk" they were riding within the constraints of the law safely. Mayor Melancon through her negligance Killed one human and Crippled another.


Your arguement that this should be thrown out due to the fact that Amy and Jim willingly engaged in a risky past-time is ungrounded. By your logic I could go around Running over any person smoking, and it wouldn't be a big deal because they were conducting "risky behavior"


To summerize:
Jim & Amy were obeying the law Mayor Melancon was not.

Melancon is responsible for the death of one human and the crippling (physical & financial) of another.

Risky behavior when safely conducted does NOT exempt people of their constitutional rights (Life, Liberty, Happyness) when another party infringes upon them.

Tullie & Terrillyn said...

I Would like to start off by saying I know Mayor Melancon personally and have for a long time and I can promise you she feels horrible about this. It is not fair to make her sound like a harden criminal that went out looking to hurt someone. She is a nice and good person who has helped plenty of people in the community over the years and I can promise you she wouldn't hurt anyone on purpose. i just wanted to let everyone know the TRUTH about Mayor Melancon.

With that being said I met Jim Pickholtz I think it was the Fri. night that same weekend at the plant I work at. I actually spent about 30 min. with him and he seemed to be a very good and funny person. I was sad to hear about him and his wife and I prayed for them.

When something like this happens it is hard for me to be on either side. I used to ride cruisers. But I quit when i had my son because the simple facy is that they are dangerous. I know most people say that they know how to ride and that they can handle it, that it is the other drivers. Well not always. My friend Cory Simeneaux (wrong spelling) died in St.amant when he lost control and hit a culvert. My point is they are dangerous and that is fact. I know most of you will say I quit riding because I am a sissy and not a hard core rider. Well call me what you want but I will not die on a motorcycle. That is a risk I am not willing to take. And yes the other drivers scare the hell out of me the way they drive nowadays. I know bikers don't like wearing helments and I'm not trying to say this wouldn't have happened if they had them on, but riding without one in my opinion is crazy. I raced motorcross for 15 years and slammed my head on dirt with a helment more times that I would like to admit, and it hurts like hell. I can't imagine hitting asphalt without one on. I not trying to preach that is just my opinion and please don't take it wrong.

The point I am trying to get to is that the article says the laws states "look before you pull out". But didn't in the article it say that the Mayor said she "looked" and just didn't see them. So to me she obeyed that law. The simple fact is that a motorcycle in the day time is sometimes hard to see. Like I said I used to ride and I am very very cautious when pulling out or switching lanes because of bikes, but the truth is sometimes they are hard to spot. I have twice switched lanes with bikes on side of me (in the blind spot) and almost ran them off the road. Luckly they were both on airline with shoulders. Both times I pulled them over and apologised and told them how sorry I was. i can't speak for the Mayor but she said she did look and didn't see them. I would doubt vey seriously she saw them and pulled out anyway. If she did look like she was supposed to and really just didn't see them, then in my opinion it was a horrible accident. You cannot compare this to a person getting shot with a gun because if you have a gun pointed at someone and shoot them that is intent to kill them. If you ride bikes on a highway you are putting yourself at a much higher risk than being in a car. That is a fact and that is the bottom line. I knew that when i rode and if you don't think that is fact then you are fooling yourself. I am not saying that if they were in a car Jim would be alive I am saying that there is a higher probability that it would have turned out better for them.

Do I think the Mayor should get off with nothing, no I don't but I don't know what punishment would be just here. I can't see putting someone in prison for an accident. I have always believed this even in vehicle accidents. If it was a true accident, no alcahol involved or running up on a side walk and hitting a skater (which you can't compare to this) then I don't think it is just to put a person in jail.

I do wish bikers could ride without the possibility of accidents like this happening, hell I would probably get another on if so, but the fact is that they will happen and i don't know what punishment is right for this type of accident. I feel for the bikers and for the people involved in accidents like the Pickholtz, but I also feel for the people who may end up in jail for a common mistake that happens often. Now if the Mayor was drunk or admitted to not looking then I would be on your side 100%. Ijust can't feel the same as you do in this situation. If there is more info that I don't know about this case that would change my mind please post it here.

This is not to get people upset but just a view into my thoughts.

My prayers go out to the Pickholtz family.

Ken said...

Just in case you still read this and anyone runs across this. You called... http://tinyurl.com/c74lwe
Lovely week...

Sam said...

Yep, I called it (http://tinyurl.com/c74lwe). "Hark", do I hear whining from the dead motorcyclist about how he 'took a chance' riding on American streets, obeying traffic laws as he should? Oh wait, he's dead. I wonder how "bad" the Mayor feels about what she did? Bad enough to offer Amy any help, since the Mayor took her husband through her own mistake? I doubt it. Times are a changing though. Some day real soon it will be a criminal offence to take the life or injure a motorcyclist, bicyclist, or pedestrian BECAUSE YOU DIDN'T LOOK. Learn to share the road, or GET OFF IT.

Fiyaman said...

I know it has been awhile since anyone posted on this subject, but let me say this. I knew Jim but never had the honor of knowing Amy. As an Emergency Responder I have responded to entirely too many accidents in my 22 yrs of service. So many are slowly trying to say it was Jim's fault because he chose to ride a bike that is dangerous.

My opinion on accidents: 18 wheelers are always blamed for accidents because they think they own the road. Hello out there IDIOTS, many lives have been taken involving 18 wheelers and the truck driver suffers because he should have known not to pull out onto the roadway because there was a car excessively speeding, would anyone call that dangerous? I WOULD. No matter what your riding/driving just looking isn't good enough. Being in a hurry oh I looked so that makes the coast clear to pull out, looking multiple times classifies LOOKING people, making sure it is safe. Needless to say I always say our court systems royally SUCK.

RIP Jim

Amy my Prayers are with you and your family