Columnist Robert Novak has a reputation for being an aggressive and fast driver. It may now have put him into legal jeopardy. He is accused of hitting a man in his black Corvette who was lawfully crossing in a pedestrian walkway in Washington and then speeding from the scene — only to be stopped a block away by an attorney who chased him on a bicycle. Novak joked in 2001 about his hatred for jaywalkers and the option of running them over. A video of the aftermath is linked below.
The pedestrian was a 66-year-old man but Novak told reporters that “I didn’t know I hit him. … I feel terrible. He’s not dead, that’s the main thing.” Well, maybe not. Novak admits that he was a block away the accident when he was stopped by a bicyclist. However, that bicyclist witnessed the accident and says that he had to chase Novak after he sped from the scene. He would seem a pretty credible witness. He is David Bono, a partner at Harkins Cunningham, who saw the accident and says that Novak “plows into the guy. The guy is sort of splayed into the windshield.” How does one not notice a guy splayed on your windshield?
Bono said that he was outraged by the Novak’s flight: “This car is speeding away. What’s going through my mind is, you just can’t hit a pedestrian and drive away.” It is hard to see how Novak was only charged with failing to yield the right of way. There is at least one eyewitness who believes that this was a hit and run — and another witness supports part of his account with a contemporary statement. Another witness, a concierge named Aleta Petty, said that Bono told her immediately after the accident that he was going to chase a hit and run driver. She quoted Bono as saying “This guy hit somebody and he won’t stop so I’m going to stay here until the police come.” Thus, Bono did not just adopt a harsher view after finding out it was Novak.
Hit and run is obvious a much more serious charge. Section 50-2201.05 states:
Fleeing from scene of accident; driving under the influence of liquor or drugs.
(2) Any operator whose vehicle causes personal injury to an individual and who fails to conform to the above requirements shall, upon conviction of the 1st offense, be fined not more than $500, or shall be imprisoned not more than 6 months, or both; and upon the conviction of his 2nd or subsequent offense, shall be fined not more than $1,000, or shall be imprisoned not more than 1 year, or both.
In the meantime, civil litigation could ensue for negligence and other claims by the victim. A trial would be particularly interesting to see if the court would allow the following statement from Novak in a 2001 Washington Post interview: “I really hate jaywalkers. I despise them. Since I don’t run the country, all I can do is yell at ‘em. The other option is to run ‘em over, but as a compassionate conservative, I would never do that.” Now, that would be an intense motion in limine fight to keep that from a Washington jury.
Novak’s hit pieces on folks like Valerie Plame are now notorious examples of his work. However, the alleged expansion to the actual use of a car for a hit and run is a new development.
For a video of Novak after receiving the citation, click here.
For the full story, click here.