Commerce Secretary Accused Of Hit-And-Run In California

U.S. Secretary of Commerce John Bryson was cited with a hit-and-run violation over the weekend in a controversy that could cost him his cabinet position as well as his freedom. Bryson is accused of hitting one car that was waiting for a train to pass and then hitting a second car on his way home. He was found unconscious in his vehicle and hospitalized. It is standard not to arrest a suspect if he is hospitalized. There is no report of alcohol or drugs being involved in the incidents, which occurred in the early evening.

Bryson was driving a Lexus around 5 pm when he allegedly rear-ended a Buick at a train crossing. He reportedly stopped to speak with the three men in the Buick. However, he struck the Buick a second time on his way out and was followed by the men (who called 911). He allegedly crashed into a second vehicle near an intersection and was found unconscious near that scene.

The facts of the incident do not fit a conventional hit and run. The absence of alcohol or drugs and his stopping at the first accident distinguish the case. There is a possible defense. Some concussions are not immediately evident to a victim, who can function for a short time. He may also claim that he was afraid of the men in the Buick and was leaving for his own safety. There is also the possibility that the second hit on the first car was so minor that he did not notice it before proceeding on his way. However, on its face, it looks pretty bad. The police say that he is cooperating so he must have spoken with them — yet, they proceeded to charge him with hit-and-run.

Bryson was chairman of Edison International, the parent company of Southern California Edison for 18 years until 2008. At one time, before his business career, Bryson was an environmental lawyer and, to his credit, he was a co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council. The NRDC is credited with a number of major environmental litigation victories.

Unless there is a strong medical defense, it will be hard for Bryson to hold on to his cabinet position — particularly in an election year. This is of course a terrible time for Obama to lose a commerce secretary in the midst of a worldwide economic crisis. It would also put his replacement in the unenviable position of seeking confirmation in an election year.

Source: LA Times

27 thoughts on “Commerce Secretary Accused Of Hit-And-Run In California”

  1. Plausible the first hit where he taljked to the folk was an accident and he was taking responsibility and the other 2 the result of head injury or other disorder.
    Of course we could speculate until the cows come home, or the test results released.

  2. They tried to get me to go to ComPsych. I declined. It was my opinion I wasn’t the one that needed to go to ComPsych.

  3. Matt, it would be medical malpractice if his doctors did not pull out all the stops in giving him a full neurological workup.

    I have a real problem with letting persons with a history of seizures drive. It only takes one seizure for the FAA to jerk a pilot’s medical certificate forever. As harsh as that sounds, it seems to be a sound policy. However, if the seizure is a one-time event from a known cause, such as ingestion of a toxin or physical illness, the FAA will issue a waiver once the license holder undergoes an exhaustive battery of tests and it can be proved it is not epilepsy.

  4. OS,

    I doubt his impairment was due to organic causes. But he will probably have to undergo the test battery anyway.

  5. Matt, there are several types of seizures. He could have been having a complex partial seizure, which would be consistent with the symptoms reported in the news media. At a minimum, he will need an EEG and MRI. Possibly a SPECT scan as well. A full neuropsychological test battery would also be appropriate. If his impairment was due to organic causes, mens rea would not be present and he would not be criminally responsible.

  6. I guess it all boils down to whether he had a medical problem that lead to this accident. If it is the case, I don’t know either way, to me he or his insurance should of course pay for the damages caused and that should be the end of it. No loss of his political position or his freedom. License? depends on the Dr.s’ reports. If not medical then treat him like any other H&R.

    I will say that from my experience people with head injury or brain trauma can sometimes behave erratically. It’s not their fault, it is the injury. Since it is the brain that is hurt, and the brain controls the body, bizarre things happen and many people interpret it as if it came from the intent of the patient. Please don’t think this is the case if you see it in your life.

    I had one accident I responded to where the victim was partially pinned under the car, more or less trapped and not crushed, he had an obvious head injury as evidenced by his uneaven pupils. When one of the fire guys and I tried to attend to him he punched me in the jaw with his free hand. Rang my bell a bit, but he wasn’t responsible in my book. I mentioned this in the report in the event I needed later medical treatment for workers’ comp. purposes but I stipulated he wasn’t criminally or civilly liable due to his injury. Sometimes it’s just better to let things go.

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