The Ultimate Overtime Bill: $4.3 Million for Dead Cyclists

Third payout after sleeping deputy killed two cyclists

By Jessica Greene
|  Friday, Nov 6, 2009  |  Updated 10:15 AM PDT
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The Ultimate Overtime Bill: $4.3 Million for Dead Cyclists

kh-photos via flickr

A memorial now marks the spot where Matt Peterson and Kristy Gough were hit and killed.

They say overtime is costly for local governments. But one deputy, overworked and underslept, has cost Santa Clara County $4.3 million.

The county will pay $800,000 to the father of a cyclist killed by a deputy who fell asleep behind the wheel of his cruiser, on top of $3.5 million in previous settlements.

Deputy James Council was less than halfway through his 12-hour shift when he fell asleep while driving his police cruiser on March 9, 2008, crossed the center line on Stevens Canyon Road in Cupertino, and hit three cyclists. Kristy Gough of San Leandro and Matt Peterson of San Francisco were killed. A third cyclist was injured.

The settlement Thursday was the third in the ongoing legal fight. Last month, the county agreed to pay Gough's mother $1.2 million and in July, the county settled with Peterson's family for $2.3 million.

The family of the injured cyclist, Christopher Knapp, also sued the county. That suit is pending.

Council was four and a half hours into his 12-hour shift when he nodded off behind the wheel. He had worked more than 12 hours the day before.

Council pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and was sentenced to four months in jail and 800 hours of community service. He was also demoted  to an unsworn position as a sheriff's technician and is not allowed to drive a patrol car or carry a gun. He will probably carry out his jail term in a home detention or by taking part in the sheriff's work furlough program, officials said.

Both Gough and Peterson were accomplished cyclists. Gough, a professional triathlete, had recently taken up road racing and came out in front of the pack in every race she ented that year. Both cyclists won in their divisions in a road race in Merced just about a week before they were killed.

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