Many of you know that last year the life of one of our instructors was snuffed out at the hands of a thoughtless driver who was speeding down a freeway in a torrential downpour in the pre-dawn hours. This inconsiderate and irresponsible driver "lost control" of his vehicle, skidded across the freeway, richocheted off of an 18-wheeler, came back across the freeway and gathered Paul up and killed him dead.
Perhaps you never had the pleasure of meeting or being taught by former Gunnery Sergeant Paul Palika and that would be your loss. Paul had a real talent; within minutes of meeting him you had the feeling he was your best friend. And he loved motorcyles, and that made him one of us.
I don't want to fill up a page with my thoughts about Paul, but I think you need to know that Paul was the best at all he did and he was a motorcyclist through and through. As such, he was a part of a large and close knit family. Each of you that knew Paul have a rare opportunity to make your feelings known to the San Diego District Attorney either by phone or email. Let's hope that this is one that won't walk away with a slap on the wrist! All motorcyclists should rally behind this case and let your feelings be known.
And from here on everything entered below will be in cronological order, most current first:
July 17,2012: From Liz Palika - ..Well, it's all done. The court case against the driver who caused the accident that killed my husband, is finished. Finally.
To our friends, Walt Fulton, Bruce Laidlaw, Gina Spadafori and others - I was going to try and let you all know when it was going to happen, but the court moved the date up with little notice.
The judge accepted our recommendations of probation, driver's education, major community service, and so on, but the judge also added a fine and restitution.
My sister Mary Stout Clipper gave the victim's impact statement for the family and our good friend Lauren Michele Seals gave one for his friends and the community. Lauren showed the court and the young man, Thomas de la Cruz, that Paul was a real man who meant something to the world around him. The judge, the defense attorney, and people in the courtroom were visibly moved.
So, Paul will be with us always and will never be forgotten. But this is done, thankfully, and that door can be closed. Rest in peace, Paul.
July 3,2012: Mary Stout Clipper 11:09am Jul 3 Walt, I have been informed that the sentencing will be July 19th. We will be given a chance to speak then. I do not know yet if it is a morning or afternoon session. I will let you know when I do. We have agreed to 100 hours of community service and 3 years probation. He has also lost his license for 1 year. The amount of time that we have to speak is limited so we will not be inviting everyone to come speak. It will be me, you, and Lauren speaking. We will be inviting the motorcycle community to the dedication of the new motorcycle training facility on Naval Base San Diego in a few months.
May 11, 2012: Today Nancy and I rode to San Diego hoping that the case of The People versus De La Cruz would come to an end. Another dissappointment, stumbling block if you will, prevented this from happening. The defense lawyer asked the judge for more time for additional discovery and he granted the request. The term that comes to mind is "due diligence" and it is nothing more that the attorney making sure she is doing all she can to keep her rear end out of trouble in the future. Let's call it CYA, if you know what I mean. Maybe next month . . . stay tuned.
April 30, 2012: Just received an email from Liz regarding the May 4 court date; it has been continued until May 11.
Here is her email: I was going to email today; the court set it back a week to 5-11 same time. The DA said to have the victim's impact statement ready - which it is - as he believes this will be the final court date - knock on wood - as the young man's attorney has been in touch.
April 5, 2012:
Well, the time is coming for the Victim Impact Statement to be made at the court hearing for the man who caused the accident that killed Paul. I cannot make this statement so Lauren, who did Paul's memorial, is going to do it.
She has asked people to contact her for things that you would like said. And feel free to share this with others. I know many people wrote emails and letters and those will be presented to the judge at the same time. But if you would like a particular though to be shared, please do. Petra, please forward this to Cayla - I don't have her email and didn't want to put it on FB.
Here is Lauren's info - please note her deadline.
Itís probably time to put out the word (if you want to.) How Paulís loss has affected peopleís lives. Will need to talk to you about you. Will need to talk to you about the family. Will need to talk to Mary for sure.
Comments brief. No hate or judging. People should try to describe the void in the world and in their lives where Paul once was.
They should be sent to:LM@Seals88.com,Subject line: Paul Palika
I will be happy to put it all together, but Ken and I leave for vacation on May 4th. Several things might happen. If he pleads a deal, the Statement could be read that day. If sentencing is delayed, I might be back in time. But in any case, I would like to have this completed in the next two weeks.
Freelance Writer www.lizpalika.com
Certified Pet Dog Trainer, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant
Liz blogs on Dog Sense at www.kindredspiritsk9.com and on Liz's Bookshelf at www.lizpalika.com.
AND YET ANOTHER DELAY Proof positive that the wheels of justice turn very slowly. The good thing is tha they are still turning! The Plea date has now been changed to May 4, 2012. Stayed tuned.
March 27, 2012 Here is the latest: On Friday, April 6, 2012, the person that killed Paul is scheduled to be in court to enter a plea. Probably nothing more that this will happen, but Nancy and I will be in the courtroom to help support Liz. The scheduled time is 9:30 AM, but we don't know what Department, yet. As soon as we find out it will be posted. It is great that Mr. Carnahan is moving forward with this action, but now we get to see just how slow the wheels of justice turn. More later!
And here is one comment from another dear friend of ours and motorcycling:
"So let me get this straight! The guy shows up in court thinking he can get off with a slap on the wrist and then doesn't even have an attorney yet. Like he didn't know he was going to court today to face possible charges of manslaughter or worse?
He had a year to retain an attorney, but instead he wastes the court's time, and the tax payers' money while our friend lies in his grave? The arrogance of it all!"
We received the following email from Liz on 2/15/12. What this means is that for those of you that have put off writing a letter to the San Diego city attorney you have a second chance.
What it means to the motorcycling community and tax paying citizens is that we have been taken advantage of once again:
". . .,
At the arraignment today, the young man did show up. However, he wanted a public defender but makes too much money for one. So the arraignment was postponed a month so he can hire an attorney. The DA said he had received the emails and letters and he will give those to the judge at the appropriate time. However, since there is another month, if anyone else had wanted to send in anything but ran out of time, there is another month. If you want to pass the word. Please let everyone know also about the arraignment.
Liz, Paul's wife forwarded to us the following note. Please take the time to contact the DA.
"I got a call from the San Diego city attorney this afternoon. They have filed manslaughter charges against the young man who killed Paul. He will face the judge in mid-February. I don't know who will be allowed to make statements or how many, but if you would like to talk to the city attorney he is Andres Carnahan 619-533-5535. Whew! Please share with all of Paul's friends." The email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org (copy and paste in your email program)