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DA says no felony in cyclist accident

July 1, 2011

By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
sdnedu@bellsouth.net

District Attorney Forrest Allgood said he has given his opinion to the Mississippi Highway Patrol in the case of an accident involving a Starkville woman who was hit while riding her bicycle nearly six weeks ago.
Allgood said he told the Highway Patrol he does not think Norton could be charged with a felony. However, he said, where it goes from here is not his decision.
“If the Highway Patrol or anyone else wants to charge her with a crime, what happens from now on is functionally up to them,” he said.
Jan Morgan, owner of Boardtown Bikes, was hit by a car on Highway 50 on May 22. Morgan was out on a training ride with her friend Kim Richardson when she was struck from behind by a car traveling 55 mph. According to the accident report, Morgan was thrown up into the air by the force of the impact before landing on the hood of the car. When the car came to a stop, Morgan was thrown to the ground. The driver of the car, Robbie Norton of Cedarbluff, has not been charged in the accident. The Highway Patrol asked for Allgood’s assistance in the case.
“The bottom line is that the Highway Patrol would normally charge someone with a crime. They didn’t do that in this case because they didn’t see a crime. They came to me and asked me to look into it,” Allgood said. “I looked at it and said, ‘I don’t see anything,’”
Allgood said several weeks ago he had an investigator look into a discrepancy between the witness statements and the Highway Patrol trooper’s report.
“There hasn’t been any reopening of the case. We just had to find out straight from the horse’s mouth what really happened,” Allgood said. “We wanted to find out if what was in the report was true, or what the statements said were true.”
Jan Morgan spent the first month after the accident heavily sedated at a hospital in Tupelo while her body recovered from the massive injuries. Last week, she was moved to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, which specializes in spinal cord and brain injury rehabilitation. Morgan suffered a brain injury during the accident, the extent of which will take some time for doctors to determine. According to her husband, David, she is frustrated and angry by the rehabilitation process. While he is frustrated by the legal aspect of the case, he said his full attention is on Jan and her recovery.
On his wife’s Facebook page, David encourages her supporters to raise awareness for bicycle safety issues.
One year after the John Paul Frerer Bicycle Safety Act went into effect, Mississippi House Representative Margaret Ellis Rogers is fighting to add an amendment that would strengthen its enforcement. The law requires motorists to give 3 feet of space when passing a cyclist.
Roger’s proposed amendment would call for an upgrade to a felony charge in the case of a maiming or death caused by the breach of the 3 foot law.
Though it would not have a direct effect on Morgan’s case, it would allow for felony charges in future cases.

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