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About the Llaneza sentencing

Some observations from a witness at the Llaneza sentencing. Llaneza was given 20 years state prison, with a minimum 18 years to be served without possibility of parole, for killing two and critically injuring a third cyclist during a high speed drunken driving spree on June 25, 2003.
Judge Frankel's courtroom is small, probably with a capacity of not more than two or three dozen people, and was filled almost entirely with immediate family and friends of the victims, as well as family members of the defendant.

Judge Frankel read all the terms of the sentence and asked Llaneza if he understood and agreed to surrender his right to a jury trial on all charges. Llaneza answered "yes." Curiously, when asked initially by the judge if he had stopped at the scene, he answered "yes." (Llaneza was apprehended a block away by police.) When asked again if he had stopped immediately, he answered "no." When asked if he had attempted to obtain help for the victims, he answered "no." When asked if he had been drinking and illegally driving that night, he answered "yes." (Llaneza's speed on SE Belmont and 40th when he struck the victims was estimated at 70mph by investigators.) As each of the eight charges was read, he answered "guilty." The charges included two counts of manslaughter, DUI, and causing grievous bodily harm, with a reckless disregard for human life.

Even though the sentencing was largely a pure formality, as both defense and prosecution had already agreed to the terms of the sentence in advance (20 years, with a minimum of 18 years served without parole), it offered a chance for family and friends of the victims to speak and in some measure try and come to terms with the tragedy.

Orion Satushek's mother spoke first. She reminisced about Orion's life as a musical artist and enthusias, a specialist in electronics and electroacoustics, his recently started business ventures, and his many acts of generosity and kindness while he lived at the family's farm north of Bellingham, Washington. She talked about how drastically her life had now changed without him. "Where there was joy, now there is grief. Where there was music, now there is silence," she said.

Angela Leazenby's father then spoke about his loss, reading a Father's Day letter he had received from Angela the very day after she died. He said he had not yet been able to bring himself to forgive Lindsey Llaneza, the man, though he prayed for his soul. Angela's aunt spoke about the wrenching loss of her niece, the horrible experience of trying to dress her terribly mangled remains so the family could still have an open casket at her funeral. She, too, could not readily forgive the perpetrator.

Caroline Buchalter, a critically injured survivor of the June 25, 2003 incident, spoke about her suffering and slow recovery, about her grief for her lost friends, and reminisced about them and their activities together leading up to the tragedy. She said she held no bitterness towards the defendant; she only regretted the "bad decisions" he had made, and hoped that it might bring others to reflect more on their own decisions in life, and how they affect others. She also spoke about her gratitude for her own survival, and for the friendships she had been able to make with friends and relatives of the other victims, albeit under the most tragic circumstances.

A young man, (name?), friends with all the victims, the uninjured fourth cyclist and companion of the victims during the June 25, 2003, incident, also spoke. He talked about his friendship with Orion, and how much this had come to mean to him in the relatively short time he had had to get to know him. He said he felt a deep kinship with Orion and that Orion was the kind of person he would have wanted to know for the rest of his life. He also referred to Angela as an "angel," who treated him like a close friend from the moment she met him. He spoke of the grief and horror at seeing his new friends die violently in the streets of Portland on a warm summer night last year.

Afterwards, Judge Frankel made a striking observation which I had also made to family members of the victims earlier. She pointed out that it was a mistake strictly speaking to refer to the killings of young Orion and Angela and severe injuries to Caroline as "accidents." Lindsey Llaneza had made a choice, which had the reasonably foreseeable outcome of producing such horrible results. She also pointed out that the problem we face is not just "drunk driving," but indeed all reckless and irresponsible driving, whether the driver is intoxicated with alcohol or distracted on their cellphone. She said she herself is a dedicated pedestrian, even though she takes her life in her hands every day due to people like Llaneza, but that people in a city like Portland make a choice to drive a car in a city which is quite manageable without one. She pointed out that people who choose to ride bikes like Angela, Orion, Caroline, and their friends were part of the solution to the problem of automotive mayhem.

I learned today that Mr. Llaneza had already been previously convicted of a DUI years earlier, and had been apprehended in just the past two months in another DUI incident for which he was pending trial on the day when he struck and killed the people on June 25. This raises the question, should Mr. Llaneza have been allowed to remain free to commit a third and fatal DUI on June 25, 2003? Could something not have been done to prevent this tragedy, given Llaneza's already egregious record?

Angela Leazenby's father wrote an essay which he distributed, calling for introducing stricter regulation of alcohol, including the idea of individual "liquor licenses" for those who choose to drink, certifying that they have not committed a DUI offense. I, for one, wonder if the solution is not, rather, to make access to cars and driving altogether much stricter, as is done in most other countries. Afterall, as judge Frankel pointed out, there are many other behaviors that can result in fatal or serious injuries due to reckless driving. The very overreliance on automobiles is almost a guarantee that such tragedies will continue to occur at the present appalling rate in this country. In a city like Portland, surely, we can promote far superior alternatives for personal access and mobility.

Thanks for Post 12.Apr.2004 21:28

avalon

Indymedia has proved a good way of getting more news on this case. The young man's name is Larry. I appreciate your report as a witness and your thoughts on what happened. Much Love and Peace.

HEAVY HEART 12.Apr.2004 22:40

Fleeta

I was one of the ones who thought that there would be NO justice. Now I just feel very sad for all involved. I hope Llaneza can make it through the tough times ahead. He did not get off no, but prison will NOT reform him either. It will have to take very impressive strength on his part to learn and grow admist the prison idustrial complex. No one goes in there and comes out better than when they went in. Very sad day today.

Some "justice" system 12.Apr.2004 22:47

xyzzy

"Llaneza was given 20 years state prison, with a minimum 18 years to be served without possibility of parole, for killing two and critically injuring a third cyclist during a high speed drunken driving spree on June 25, 2003."

Meanwhile Jeff "Free" Luers was given twenty-three years for killing nobody. Assuming Tre Arrow is found guilty of his alleged role in the truck arsons, he could get up to eighty years.

Seems as if SUV's and logging trucks are more important than human lives. Some "justice" system.

Portland

The Judge's comments 13.Apr.2004 07:24

The Green Redneck

Kisses and flowers to the judge for her comments re choices and driving in PDX!

according to our system 13.Apr.2004 08:34

mom

trucks and SUVs are more important than human life. We need to shift our justice system from portecting stuff to protecting people.
I hope that the punishment really fits the crime... I pray that the man is required to do AA or other substance abuse work. I hope that people will take to heart some what the judge and family members said and perhaps work to change laws and force people to give up cars who are not demonstrating a responsible driving record... I like the idea of individual driver's licenses. I have a elderly family member who drives and should not and I don't know how to stop him. I know how much he is relied on by his elderly partner etc etc... and they should be the one to turn him in as they have the real evidence...
Perhaps there is a group organizing to change the driving laws. Perhaps people will come to recognze that mass transit is good in Portland and cars aren't needed. Perhaps streets wil be dedicated to bikes only. Perhaps, if we keep the memories alive and let Orion and Angela deaths teach us something.

A fine balance 13.Apr.2004 13:12

Tingmissartoq "Tingmissartoq" Tingmissartoq"

Well, that was a fine summary of the sentencing and a welcome respite from the what often passes for journalism on this site. The comments about Tre are misplaced . . . and poorly thought out to boot. The fact remains that the incidents Tre is being charged with are attacks on society (which may be deserved, but that's not the point here) and thus the punishment for this is higher than if they were against individuals. Whether he was just a fool or a revolutionary, time will tell, but the sentence is fitting. I'm sure the sentence for participants in the Boston Tea Party would have been worse then 80 years . . . it goes with the territory. Direct action is not for the faint of heart.

Keeping memories alive... 13.Apr.2004 13:41

Fenbar 1

I was involved with building the bicycle memorial to Matthew Sheckel who was killed as he rode his bike through the intersection of 37th and SE Taylor.

If folks want to build a memorial on Belmont and 40th, contact Southeast Uplift at 503 232 0010 and ask the Land Use and Transportation organizer who they can talk with.

peace

Unbalanced 13.Apr.2004 21:21

xyzzy

Ah, the great god "society", whose name always seems to be invoked whenever reason and logic fall short of the task. As in (to pick some other examples): We can't allow that book to be published -- it's pornographic, that's bad for society. We can't allow same-sex marriages -- that's bad for society.

Tell me, why are earth-raping corporations part of this "society" and deserving of special rights as such, and bicyclists not?

Could it be that "society" in this context is nothing but a synonym for the ruling corporate elite?

Portland

Christ, you people! 16.Apr.2004 14:56

clamydia

I can't believe this shit. When one of "our own" goes to jail, it's this big outrage, and everyone is all "this is a travesty!", and people start pontificating about how the prison system is evil and blah blah blah. Now, here's this person: An alcoholic, suffering from ignorance and psychological dysfunction, who killed two people and maimed another as a result of his disease. He is thus sentenced to rot in a cell for at least 18 years. That's not justice. Where is your fucking outrage now, you two-faced fuckwads? This is a human being's life we're talking about. Yeah, he killed two others, but ruining his life isn't going to change that. It's probably going to make things worse, as a matter of fact, because when this person finally gets out of prison, he's probably going to give less of a flying fuck about society than he ever did before he wen't in. He will run right back to the bottle, and maybe end up killing a few more people before he kills himself. This guy could be counseled, placed in forced detox, etc, but instead the state chooses to send him up the river. That's great. Let's just sweep all of our problems under the rug and they'll go away. SEE?! We send drunk driveers who kill people to prison! That means that we have this problem under control EVERY SINGLE TIME IT HAPPENS!!!!

It's so easy to judge people. It's another thing to actually try to change people. This man has been judged, not changed.

justice ... 17.Apr.2004 16:17

aunt shelly

sending this man to prison for killing my niece and her friend is only justice for the "system" there is no justice for these deaths.so many more lives have been affected by this tragedy.not just portland but every where in the usa where there lives an alcoholic with personal problems needs to change the laws involving any alcohol related crime.domestic abusers,family disfunctions,d.u.i.offenders,if somebody wants to purchase alcohol give them a purchasers card.if the screw up with offenses while intoxicated yank that privelage,not there driving privelage.that way they will have ways to work to pay the fines they will incur for being so stupid and so irresponsible.if underagers get caught then they would never have a chance to walk through a door of a night club...so on and so on.it is possable to get justice...people need to change the laws.im not judging anyone.we all have drunks in our lives or have been one,we need to change by preventing the people who need help from even purchasing it