News


Lawyer's hit-and-run conviction reduced to misdemeanor in Dublin fatality

Judge also allows Spencer Freeman Smith to delay jail time

An Alameda County judge decided to downgrade the felony conviction of a lawyer who admitted hitting and killing a man with his car in Dublin in 2012, reducing the felony hit-and-run count to a misdemeanor.

Spencer Freeman Smith, who lived in San Ramon at the time of the crash, pleaded guilty last month to felony hit-and-run and misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter, and he was sentenced to one month in jail, 11 months of electronic monitoring and five years of probation.

However, Judge Michael Gaffey last Friday granted a defense request to reduce Smith's felony to a misdemeanor and allow him to serve his month in jail after undergoing electronic monitoring -- rather than serving his jail time first. The defense motion was granted against prosecutors' "strenuous objection," Alameda County District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Teresa Drenick said.

Smith was arrested in May 2012 in connection with the hit-and-run death of Chinese national Bo Hu, 57, who was bicycling on Dougherty Road near Fall Creek Road in Dublin, a section of road that did not have bike lanes.

Smith didn't stop and drove back to his San Ramon home, where police later found his damaged black 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS55, according to authorities.

Smith, who is listed as a partner at the San Francisco-based employment law firm of Smith Patten, initially pleaded not guilty and tried to renegotiate a plea deal in 2013.

A litany of postponements, plea changes and other delays pushed the case back to Sept. 11, when Smith changed his plea to guilty and was formally sentenced on Sept. 25.

According to the California Bar's website, Smith was temporarily suspended from practicing law on April 15, but two days later that suspension was reversed. He is currently listed as an actively practicing lawyer.

Comments

21 people like this
Posted by Mickey
a resident of Livermore
on Oct 17, 2015 at 5:48 am

Since when has death by hit and run become a misdemeanor? Do you suppose it has something to do with connections in the "law" profession?? You can be fairly csrtain if a "mere mortal" was involved in this incident, the reduction from felony to misdemeanor would never have been allowed to happen. Could the legal system be totally broken?? Just saying!


5 people like this
Posted by andus
a resident of Avila
on Oct 17, 2015 at 2:59 pm

I have a slightly different and perhaps unpopular position. The attorney who fled the scene is African American. Maybe somebody is trying his/her best to make it a more fair world and that's why he got off easy.




5 people like this
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Oct 17, 2015 at 3:49 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

What makes Felony conviction eligible for reduction to Misdemeanor?

California Penal Code 17 (b) PC establishes two requirements for reducing a Felony conviction to a misdemeanor:

1. The underlying offense must be a "wobbler".
2. Probation must have been granted.

What is a "Wobbler"?

The first requirement is that the offense must be what is called a "Wobbler". Under California Law, a "Wobbler" is an offense that can be charged and punished as either a felony or a misdemeanor.


21 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Oct 18, 2015 at 10:26 am

This judge needs to go.


28 people like this
Posted by Sam
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2015 at 10:27 am

Here's a well-written opinion piece from the Contra Costa Times:
Web Link

Bottom line here, Spencer Smith literally got away with murder. He was able to game the judicial system in a way that you or I would never be able to do. I'm very surprised and most bothered by the fact that the judge in the case, Michael Gaffey, was a principal in this injustice. I look to judges to be the final arbiters and this particular individual disappoints greatly.


24 people like this
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Oct 19, 2015 at 8:55 am

Michael Austin is a registered user.

I am personally upset that California penal code allowed this shrewd person to have his felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor. Had he served time, locked up for his felony conviction, this would be a different story.

He was able to plea deal this scenario where he did not serve time under the felony conviction, and was able to basically, walk away, a free man to continue his law career without license inhibition.

I fault the Alameda County Prosecutors for agreeing and in accommodating this agreement. Despite the report in the media that the prosecutors argued against this felony reduction to misdemeanor. I do not believe any of that. The Alameda County Attorneys office definitely was incompetent in prosecuting this case.

This defendant struck and killed a person and left the scene, just unbelievable how our justice system is truly full of holes.

It falls back on the original judge that recused himself because of family pressure. Than judge Michael Gaffey allowing this person that killed another person, then fled the scene, to serve jail time in his home, not entering a jail under a felony conviction, which freed him, to have a life, while the person he struck is dead.


16 people like this
Posted by Jerry
a resident of Downtown
on Oct 19, 2015 at 9:50 am

Chinese lives matter!!!


4 people like this
Posted by mooseturd
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Oct 19, 2015 at 11:28 am

mooseturd is a registered user.

@Michael Austin; Well stated. We can only hope that all responsible for this travesty get their just reward.


15 people like this
Posted by N. Awe
a resident of Ruby Hill
on Oct 19, 2015 at 12:49 pm

One man loses everything, the other, almost nothing.


15 people like this
Posted by Sean
a resident of Downtown
on Oct 19, 2015 at 6:59 pm

How much do you want to bet the attorney was drunk at the time of the hit and run and that is why he fled the scene.

He should be disbarred and he should go to prison.


Like this comment
Posted by Wei Wei
a resident of Harvest Park Middle School
on Oct 19, 2015 at 11:22 pm

I was told that Chinese is not minority and we are not majority either( Chinese must be transparent to full fill these 2 conditions at the same time). So the racism against Chinese is called positive discrimination. As I only heard such words from the left, I think it may be the principal for them. In this theory, the positive discrimination is good. So there are 2 kind of discriminations, the good one and the bad one. Which one it is merely based on the race and so there comes 2 kind of racism, the good one and the bad one. In this way, the racism and discrimination just come back with a new face. And this time it gets a pretty look in stead of an ugly one. Following this path, there comes 2 kind of terrorisms, the good one and the bad one. And I think you may have already guessed out which one is good and which one is bad.


6 people like this
Posted by carlos
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Oct 20, 2015 at 9:21 am

There is nothing new here. Doctors protect doctors. Lawyers protect lawyers. We have the best justice system money can buy. Now the former convicted felon can have his civil rights restored. He can vote, own a firearm, and maybe keep his law license.


2 people like this
Posted by Rebecca
a resident of Mission Park
on Oct 20, 2015 at 12:32 pm

Yes he can Carlos, but can he sleep at night?


Like this comment
Posted by Jim
a resident of Val Vista
on Oct 21, 2015 at 9:06 am

Lawyers Lives Matter!


2 people like this
Posted by Caros
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Oct 21, 2015 at 1:32 pm

Rebecca, he's a lawyer and he won. He'll sleep like a baby.


1 person likes this
Posted by Lawyers have ethics
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2015 at 12:14 pm

But they don't use them.

Their motto is:
If justice prevails,
you can always appeal!


1 person likes this
Posted by WOW!!!
a resident of Dublin
on Oct 23, 2015 at 6:46 pm

i guess the glove doesn't fit


4 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Oct 23, 2015 at 7:11 pm

Where are the riots, looting, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton screaming for justice?

Political commentary aside, how do we challenge this. It's wrong


3 people like this
Posted by Sam
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2015 at 10:03 pm

Smith played the court system like a song. With or without Judge Gaffey's help, we'll never know or be able to prove. Common sense dictates that Smith got off with less than a slap on the wrist for a grievous offense for which any of us would have been prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Further complicating the relationship between Smith and the Alameda courts, Smith's mother worked in the Alameda Courts for decades.

The victim's friend, Aronld Owens, said this regarding the decision and about communicating with the victim's family: "I'm embarrassed, as an American, to talk to them," Owens said. "After watching how this case went, I have no faith whatsoever that he will ever spend one day in jail."

You can write to the judge in the case:

Judge Michael Gaffey
HAYWARD HALL OF JUSTICE
24405 Amador Street
Hayward, CA 94544
Fax 510-690-2824

You can also write to the prosecutor, although from what I read he tried in vain to get a fair sentence imposed:
Matt Gaidos
Office of the District Attorney
Alameda County
1225 Fallon St.
Oakland, CA 94612


Like this comment
Posted by Eric
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Oct 24, 2015 at 9:40 pm

I would generally address a Judge with the honorific "your honor". This judge has no honor. I couldn't even call him Sir or by his whole name. When I address my letter to him to tell him what a pos he is I'll just call him Mike.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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