[Uh, Justice] Here is what driving drunk and plowing into a man on a bicycle will get you in Salt Lake County: A plea of negligent homicide (a misdemeanor) and one year in jail.
I once wrote about the victim in this case, Bap Akol Deng Bap, and now his story has come full circle. A Sudanese immigrant living in Salt Lake City, Bap was killed on a warm September night in 2006.
It seemed only fair to compose an obituary back then for the hard-working 36-year-old because he had no one else to do it. Bap had fled war-ravaged Sudan in the early '90s. He had lived for a time in India, earning an economics degree, then found his way to the United States. He lived alone. He had one brother in Canada. The rest of his family had remained in Sudan.
Like most political and religious refugees in Salt Lake City, Bap conducted his life simply and quietly. In writing about him for The Salt Lake Tribune, I contacted friends in the relocation community and his employer. "It was such a tragedy, really. This man does not have an enemy," said Nyuol Nyuol, a fellow Sudanese and a case manager for the Utah Refugee Center. "He contributed to the Sudanese people here. He was a good man." Nyuol remembered how Bap read several newspapers a day at the Salt Lake City Main Library and that the devout Roman Catholic attended mass every morning.
On the night of his death, Bap was riding his bike (his only means of transportation) home from the night shift at Black Diamond Equipment in Holladay. He worked there assembling mountain sports equipment. Company founder and CEO Peter Metcalf has a reputation for hiring refugees and paying them fair wages and benefits. Many of his employees ride bikes to and from work, Metcalf said at the time. BDE provided them with helmets and flashing head and tail lights for their bikes.
None of it made a difference for Bap that night. Police reports established he had been riding on the shoulder of 3900 South just east of Highland Drive when hit from behind. Bap died at LDS Hospital shortly before sunrise the next day. Alone.
County prosecutors say they could only make a negligent homicide charge stick because they could not clearly prove that suspect Pedro Sosa-Avilias was driving impaired. Witnesses were unreliable, they said.
So now it ends. Nearly two years ago, Metcalf said it best: "He worked hard and had a very gentle way. To think that he went to hell and back to get [to the U.S.], a nice guy, a guy who was doing all that was expected, and then to have him die like this. It's tragic."
Just slightly more tragic than what passed for justice in the disposition of this case.