'He is a danger': Hit-and-run victim outraged suspect released
The victim in a recent hit-and-run says he's lucky to be alive, but he's outraged that the man who admitted to smashing into him and then driving away was released without having to pay any bail upfront.
One day, Tyler Hughes, 28, was mountain biking, then the next, he was being rushed to the hospital with several broken bones.
"I was just high on mountain biking, I was really excited about it, so this is really a bummer. I'm in my best physical condition of my life, until now," said Hughes.
He says he was riding his motorcycle at 6th Avenue and Cordova Street last Wednesday when he crashed into a van running a red light. The driver, he says, just kept going.
According to court documents, when police later caught up with 39-year-old Brandon Cockburn, "He admitted that he ran through the steady red light and struck Hughes' motorcycle. He said the reason he ran the red light was because his van was low on gas and he didn't want it to shut off at the intersection."
Cockburn is charged with assault with a weapon, a class C felony, and leaving the scene of an accident involving injury, a misdemeanor.
The hit-and-run suspect was arraigned then released on GPS monitoring and an unsecured bond, meaning he didn't have to pay any money up front to go free, even though his criminal history involves operating under the influence and driving without insurance, and he has nine pending felony child pornography charges that were filed against him back in April.
"I understand, from the legal side, if this guy is innocent until proven guilty, but I'm pretty sure they pulled him over in a van that's missing a window and some of those pieces of glass are in my skin," said Hughes, disappointed with the system that let Cockburn go free before trial so easily.
Cockburn scored a two out of 10 on the state's pretrial risk assessment tool, a report based on a computer-generated algorithm. A two classifies Cockburn as 'Low Risk,' but as Governor Bill Walker signed House Bill 312 into law earlier this month, the 'mandatory release' mechanism that was part of SB91 is no longer a factor, giving discretion back to judges to make decisions about bail.
Hughes says he's lucky he survived the crash and credits his safety training, as well as his helmet and armored jacket.
"This was best case scenario," he said, gesturing at his new, temporarily bed-ridden state.
But, it's hard for him to understand why while he is unable to do some of the most simple tasks without help, Cockburn is out.
"I'm outraged right now. I can't see myself even more outraged," said Hughes, adding his concerns that someone else could be hurt. "He is a danger... not behind bars."
And though he's lost much of his freedom, for the time being, Hughes is determined to use all of his remaining strength to show up at Cockburn's next hearing on Tuesday.
"In this case, I didn't really know who to be angry at, I was just saying, 'This is unjust, why is this guy walking?' I didn't go straight to saying it's SB 91, because I know it's more complicated than that. Luckily, I have a wonderful senator to chat with about this who is very open to talk with any constituents-- I'm not a special case here, even though I'm family," said Hughes.
Hughes is the son of Republican Senator Shelley Hughes (R-Palmer), who voted for SB91, the controversial crime reform bill that amassed bipartisan support.
Senator Hughes is now one of the lawmakers who's publicly stated SB91 was a mistake, and she regrets her vote.
The lawmaker from the Valley said during a phone interview Monday that she's grateful for the first responders and medical staff who treated her son, and that his case highlights why she spent the last session pushing for a full repeal and replace measure-- which didn't go through.
"Some victims haven't been as lucky as my son, and so I've been passionately working on this a second year and I hope that we can gather the support next year to do remaining repeal work. We have to find the balance between justice for the victims and rehabilitation for the offenders, but not at the expense of jeopardizing the public safety. We need to do the rehabilitation behind bars," said Senator Hughes.
Tyler Hughes and his wife say they're overwhelmed by the support they've received from their employers, friends and family, and through a GoFundMe page set up to help with expenses.
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