California, Cars, Crime, Deaths, Small Law Firms

Bay Area Attorney Arrested In Fatal Hit-and-Run Accident

On Friday evening, we briefly mentioned the tragic news of a bicyclist getting struck and killed in an apparent hit-and-run incident. An attorney from the San Francisco Bay Area was arrested, accused of being the responsible (or not-so-responsible) driver.

This is the kind of story that gives attorneys in general a bad reputation. It’s got everything: possible deceitfulness, apparent lack of ethics, and a fancy car. The vehicle in question wasn’t some junky scraper, but a brand-new Mercedes.

You can’t make this stuff up — unless you want to be accused of ripping off Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities (affiliate link)…

According to local news reports, Bo Hu, a 57-year-old Chinese man, was hit and killed at around 11:30 PM last Tuesday in Dublin, an East Bay suburb. Investigators found a car part near the crash scene, which helped them tie a black Mercedes to the incident.

Spencer Smith

That evidence led them to Spencer Smith, the name partner of a small law firm in San Francisco, Smith Patten. Smith, a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College of Law, lives just a few miles from where the accident happened, according to the San Francisco Chronicle:

Spencer Freeman Smith, 32, of San Ramon was arrested Thursday after police found a damaged black, 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS550 in his garage on Baker Way, 3 miles north of the crash site, said Dublin police Lt. Herb Walters.

Smith, who was admitted to the State Bar in 2005, did not respond to requests for comment. His attorney, Dionne Choyce, said, “This was a terrible accident. Other than that, I think once the facts come out, that’s pretty much all it is.”

Based on what police are saying, things don’t look so good for Mr. Smith, especially because he reportedly has a less-than-stellar driving record. He faces felony hit-and-run and manslaughter charges:

Smith’s car had “extensive windshield and front-end damage” and was missing the parts left behind at the scene of the crash that killed Bo Hu, 57, of China, Walters said.

Smith has two convictions in California for speeding within the past year, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

What a nightmare. (Smith and his law firm partner, Dow Patten, have declined comment to other media outlets. We also reached out to them both but have not received a response.)

Smith, who focuses on employment litigation, has been released on bail, according to a Dublin news blog. But I imagine things are about to get a lot worse for him.

We don’t know what the specifics of the accident are or what led Mr. Smith to not report it (if the allegations against him turn out to be correct; remember, at this point they’re just allegations).

It’s a scary reminder that regardless of who you are, or what your profession is, or what car you drive, actions have consequences. And when you make a mistake — well, you have to ‘fess up. Skeletons have a way of escaping the closet, and you can bet a frantic, remorseful 911 call looks a lot better to a jury then an officer describing how he discovered a smashed-up Mercedes hidden in a garage.

Bicycle Rider Killed in Hit and Run Identified [Dublin Patch]
Clients of San Ramon Hit-and-Run Attorney Spencer Freeman Smith May Need to Jump Ship [Around Dublin]
Lawyer arrested in Dublin cyclist’s hit-run death [San Francisco Chronicle]

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