Colorado District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said the government's plea deal with a wealth manager who didn't stop after hitting a bicyclist this summer is "far more punitive" than what the victim reportedly wants.
The Vail Daily News reported last week that Martin Erzinger, a money manager with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in Denver, Col., would not face felony charges in part because the felony could jeopardize his job and ability to pay restitution to the victim.
"Felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in Mr. Erzinger's profession, and that entered into it," Hurlbert told the paper. "When you're talking about restitution, you don't want to take away his ability to pay."
The victim, Steven Milo, is reportedly livid with the decision. "Mr. Erzinger struck me, fled and left me for dead on the highway," wrote Milo. "Neither his financial prominence nor my financial situation should be factors in your prosecution of this case."
Hurlbert told HuffPost on Monday the government decided to offer Erzinger a plea bargain for two misdemeanors instead of a deferred felony, which is what he said Milo wanted. He said Erzinger could face two years of jail time and that the misdemeanors will be on his record permanently, while the deferred felony will eventually be expunged.
"This is the right plea bargain given the facts of the case, the defendant's prior criminal history and his willingness to take responsibility," Hurlbert said. "We feel this is far more punitive than the felony deferred."
Hurlbert did not offer details on the restitution, except to say it would be "significant." He said he did not actually know exactly how a felony or misdemeanor would affect Erzinger's ability to do his job. He said it was a factor, but not a major one, in his decision.
"As far as employment, in any case where there is significant restitution we certainly take that into account," Hurlbert said, "but it is not the overriding concern."
In a follow-up story, the Daily News reported that Hurlbert has received over 1,000 emails condemning his decision. The story has sparked widespread outrage online.
Morgan Stanley told HuffPost that Erzinger's hit-and-run had nothing to do with his wealth management.
"This unfortunate situation was not related to the individual's professional activities, but we are continuing to monitor the situation and will cooperate fully with law enforcement, if requested," said a spokeswoman.
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