By Ken Stone
Updated at 8:50 p.m. Feb. 1, 2017
Friends of a La Jolla man paralyzed 16 months ago in New Orleans were reacting with anger Wednesday that his road-rage assailant would get no added jail time.Christopher Smith, 31, was sentenced to a six-month suspended sentence and two years of inactive probation, according to news reports, after he pleaded guilty Wednesday to a reduced misdemeanor charge of simple battery on Doug David.
District Judge Tracey Flemings-Davillier issued the reduced sentence because David declined to testify at trial, citing physical and financial hardships.
David, 66, told The Times-Picaune in a telephone interview that “(Smith’s) getting a slap on the wrist while I’m paralyzed. I certainly don’t like it and don’t condone it, but I couldn’t go there.”
With the medical flight and other needs for the trip, it would have cost more than $50,000, David and backers contend.“I didn’t feel sure (the DA’s office) would have picked up the tab for all of that, and I wasn’t going to invest money without possibility of being reimbursed,” David was quoted as saying.
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro told the paper his office would have paid David’s travel expenses.
“The victim indicated that he is not willing to testify, that the risk outweighs the rewards of coming down here,” Cannizzaro said. “He refuses to come here, even if his doctors would approve that it would be OK for him to come.”
Smith faced up to five years in prison had he been convicted as of aggravated battery in the Oct. 15, 2015, incident near the French Quarter, where jazz fan David was paying one of his frequent visits.
Stephen Simpson, David’s friend from high school, sent a passionate response to Times-Picayune reporter Ken Daley.
“While I am the first to agree that both parties in this assault acted in a completely stupid and unfortunate manner, that the results of their actions far outstripped their intent, I cannot express how angry it makes me to see the pathetic excuse for a district attorney say that [was] Mr. David unwilling and refusing to testify,” he wrote. “And you let him get away with that terminology.”
Simpson called that argument total BS.
“He did not ‘just refuse’! In this day of Facetime and Skype, we cannot find a way to testify remotely?”Diane Jones, another David friend, said on Facebook: “What a joke. DA doesn’t get justice for Doug David and uses Doug’s case to try and get funding for his office? … What would have been justice? Some jail time.”
She quoted a New Orleans TV report: “At a time when the D.A.’s budget is being slashed by the City Council, Cannizzaro said this case shows how imperative it is for his office to have proper funding to be able to fly in witnesses. Although David chose not to testify, the D.A. said his office often has to fly people in from around the country, and sometimes, the world.”
Another longtime friend, Cathy Carey, said on Facebook: “The truth is that Doug is a tetraplegic with very little use of any limbs. He needs help with every bodily function and eating and drinking.”
Carey described his costly trips to the emergency room since returning to the county in March 2016. David now lives in an Escondido mobile home park with a 24/7 caregiver, a friend said.
“He has had [urinary tract infections] 10 times, which led to life-threatening sepsis three times, which led to [Clostridium difficile] two times and multiple life-threatening blood clots in his lungs (pulmonary embolism),” she wrote.
“Worst of all, he has had autonomic dysreflexia eight times from blood pressure changes brought on by physical stress. He would get any and possibly all of the above traveling to New Orleans and being exposed to bacteria.”
Carey said she provided the New Orleans district attorney “all this information and more.”
David also told Cannizzaro multiple times he did not agree with the outcome of a plea bargain down to a misdemeanor, Carey said.
“Late yesterday, they called and kept trying to get him to agree and he didn’t,” she said. “They said to him ‘in lieu of us dismissing the case, do you agree it’s better to plea bargain? And he said yes.”
But Cannizzaro said: “I can’t recall any cases I’ve been involved with — as the judge, DA or even as an assistant DA — where a complaining witness was in another state and just refused to come in.”
Jones’ sister Sharon, a La Jolla friend of David, suspects that his New Orleans treatment seems a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“They should have made it possible for him to testify without putting his life at risk,” said Sharon Jones.
On the Justice for Doug David page, with nearly 600 “Likes,” Facebook followers continue to post views.
>> Subscribe to Times of San Diego’s free daily email newsletter! Click hereFollow Us: