Dave Schlabowske
Bike Czar

One Year in Jail for Killing Bicyclist?

Young woman who was texting while driving and killed bicyclist must do 500 hours community service. Is that fair?

By , Bike Federation of Wisconsin - Aug 23rd, 2013 09:58 am
Pa-Kou-Xiong, 20

Pa-Kou-Xiong, 20

On Tuesday, Outagamie  Circuit Court Judge Gregory Gill sentenced PaKou Xiong to one year in jail, and  five years of probation, during which she must do 100 hours of community service each year speaking to students wearing her orange jumpsuit. She also will not be allowed to drive without permission from her probation agent and can’t have a cellphone.

The prosecuting attorney and family of James Weiss, 46, had asked for the maximum of 5 years in prison. Phone records show that Xiong was texting and driving last summer when she hit Weiss while he was riding his bike on Kimberly Avenue in Kimberly. Weiss died later from injuries he suffered in the crash.

“I’m trying to find it in my heart to forgive you for killing my brother,” said David Weiss when he addressed Xiong at the hearing, but that did not stop him from reminding Judge Gill that “the law provides guidelines for crimes of this nature and court has the responsibility and the power and we would expect  to see that people who commit these crimes receive the maximum allowed.”

Judge Gill explained he thought it more effective to have Xiong out educating people about the dangers of inattentive driving than to keep her behind bars for the full five years. ”A long term of incarceration followed by supervision, we take this issue off of the hot button for two to three years,” said Judge Gregory Gill. “I don’t want to lose the time that we have to now educate while the issue is before us.”

News media reports and television clips from the sentencing hearing show Xiong to be apologetic and remorseful.  Is one year in jail plus community service a fitting sentence for killing an innocent person?

Personally I am on the fence about this. I am happy that Xiong got prison time and I appreciate that the judge handed down a thoughtful sentence, but the family members might still feel cheated by this sentence. On the other had, no amount of jail time that can bring their loved one back and at least Xiong will spend five years reminding other young people of the potentially horrific consequences of inattentive driving.

What do you think? Is this a fair sentence for taking a life or should she serve 5 years in prison and still have to do 500 hours of community service?

James Weiss

James Weiss

This article was originally published by the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin.

Categories: Bike Czar

11 thoughts on “Bike Czar: One Year in Jail for Killing Bicyclist?”

  1. judith ann moriarty says:

    Five years or one? Which sentence would be the better? I think the judge was correct in his sentencing. There was no intent to harm the bicyclist and yes, like most accidents, this was unfortunate. What a heavy burden for both the family and the young women.

  2. Casey says:

    What accident was there? I’m pretty sure she knew she was texting while she was driving. This is something she was probably in the habit and now because of her habitual disregard for other human beings lives and property a man is dead.
    When will people learn that a car is a peice of heavy machinery and as such should treat it knowing that negligence can result in the lost of life?

  3. duncan says:

    1 year? Way too short.

    Slipping on black ice? An accident. Brake failure? An accident. This was NOT an accident. It is an eventuality of driving a 3,000 pound vehicle without aiming it away from people, 100% of the time.

    Now, if it were an infrequent issue, like .. washing your windshield, not seeing a pedestrian and crashing .. Freak occurrence. Texting and driving and crashing? Happens daily. And the lesson needs to be clear: text and drive = shooting a gun randomly into the street. You may get lucky and not kill someone. Shoot enough times, you will.

    This is indeed an issue where judges need to send a message: kill someone with this commonplace negligence, and you will pay a heavy price. Don’t do it. 1 year plus some CS hours? Is not a heavy price.

  4. Hi Judith,

    Thanks for reading and commenting. I am in the same camp Casey and Duncan. This was no accident. Texting and driving is illegal and dangerous, plain and simple. I know lots of people who have legal drivers licenses still do it, but that doesn’t mean we should take it lightly. What if I had a conceal and carry permit, and decided to clean it or even just look at it in a crowd at State Fair. If the gun goes off and I kill someone, that is hardly an accident. I committed a dangerous and foolish act of criminal negligence, not simple negligence. A reasonable person should realize the danger of pulling out a loaded gun in a crowd. Similarly, a reasonable person should realize the danger of texting and driving on a road shared by more vulnerable road users.

  5. jeff ircink says:

    if the judge is so concerned with the criminal’s education and educating the public, why not have her serve her 5 years (which is too short anyway) and have her do her community service and talks in her orange jumper) while concurrently serving those 5 years in prison. you live under a rock if you haven’t heard enough on driving while texting (or drinking for that matter). this is a travesty! the judge is thinking way too hard. HOW MUCH IS A HUMAN LIFE WORTH, for Christ’s sakes!?

  6. Chris Jacobs says:

    It’s an accident. Texting just means attention was elsewhere and obviously was a tragic mistake. She could have easily been watching some other distraction to the side or whatever and had the same accident. One could easily make the argument that things like imminent brake failure or even tire blowouts generally have very obvious warning signs several days before it happens. To call texting and driving the equivalent to firing a gun randomly is just ridiculous on many levels. Although tragic in outcome, in this day and age, 1 year in jail for someone who was 19 at the time, is a lot for an incident like this.

  7. Juli Kaufmann says:

    @Chris I am incredulous at your response. In my view, we truly have a problem in our society if yours is a commonly held belief. I can’t help but wonder if your perspective would be different if your closest loved one was killed by a licensed adult committing a similar act that is not merely negligent but also illegal. There is a huge difference between an “accident” and an unintended, but predictable injury that is the outcome of personal choices – ones of which the consequences are well documented. Tragic for all, yes, but if accountability for taking a life is so low, we are in deep trouble. I personally hope we are all willing to take more responsibility for our actions.

  8. Judith Ann Moriarty says:

    A “Comment” is a personal opinion and should never be construed as beyond that.

  9. Chris,

    Motor vehicles kill more people than guns in the United States. Motor vehicles are no different than guns in that they both can kill if people are negligent with them. Texting and driving is criminal negligence, and this is not an accident. I am pretty confident I can eject the bullets from my deer hunting rifle, clean it and reload it without the gun going off, but if I was doing that in a crowd and it did go off and kill someone, that would not be an accident. Until the attitude that death by motor vehicle is just a tragic “accident” we will never stop people from distracted driving.

  10. jeff ircink says:

    @chris jacobs – it’s not ridiculous. people seem to forget that you as the driver are a bullet in a high-powered weapon. as far as tire blowouts and brake failure, those are generally things out of control. texting is within one’s control. there’s a big difference. one year in jail for a 19 year for killing someone is alot??? you’re nuts.

  11. Chris Jacobs says:

    People usually get a lot less for intentionally beating their wives, mugging, or assaulting someone on the street. In fact, there are several cases of misdemeanor stabbing deaths, yet texting while driving should be worse? The fact that someone dies is really after the fact given that texting while driving is not intended to injure. Even accidental gun fire in public that kills someone rarely is much more than a misdemeanor.

    Vehicle deaths are at their lowest in 62 years, and dropped 22% from 2005 to 2010, while at that same time texting has become more prevalent than ever. By 2015, it is predicted that gun deaths will outnumber vehicle deaths.

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