Student Receives 30 Days for Hitting War Protester With Truck
A Moorpark College student who struck an anti-war demonstrator with his pickup truck was found guilty of reckless driving Friday and was sentenced to 30 days in jail.
A Ventura County Municipal Court jury deliberated less than two hours before agreeing that Glenn Gazdik, 22, of Agoura was guilty of misdemeanor reckless driving that caused injuries.
The victim, Ali Dempsey, 25, of Thousand Oaks testified that she suffered bruises and back pain and must use crutches until a knee injury heals.
As the defendant choked back tears, Judge William Lamb told Gazdik he was lucky that Dempsey was not more seriously hurt or he would be facing a longer sentence. The charge carries a maximum term of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
“In many respects this was a tragic accident,” said Lamb, a visiting judge from Mendocino County. “But the evidence does reflect irresponsible and impulsive conduct on your part.”
The incident occurred Jan. 15, the day before allied forces attacked Iraq, when Gazdik came upon an anti-war demonstration at Moorpark Road and Thousand Oaks Boulevard.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Dee Corona said Gazdik rolled down the window of his truck and got into a heated exchange with the demonstrators. Some of the protesters surrounded the truck, and Gazdik drove onto the sidewalk, she said.
He then gunned the truck’s engine, engaged the clutch and screeched away, Corona said, striking Dempsey, who was taking part in the protest.
Gazdik’s attorney, Samuel K. Eaton Jr., said the defendant unknowingly crossed over the sidewalk while trying to make a difficult turn. He said Gazdik felt threatened by the protesters and gunned the engine, unaware that a rear wheel was stuck against the curb. When the wheel finally broke free, he said, the truck shot across the intersection.
Gazdik said he did not realize he had hit Dempsey until he looked into his rear-view mirror. He was afraid to stop, he said, but called deputies as soon as he got home.
Several Moorpark College students testified that Gazdik had expressed disgust for anti-war protesters in the days before the incident. A few hours before the confrontation, Corona said, Gazdik told a fellow student that “there should be no right of free speech in time of war, and that anybody who speaks up should be shot.”
“It shows his state of mind at that corner,” Corona said.
The jury foreman, a Simi Valley engineer, said the panel discounted Gazdik’s claim that he thought he was in danger. He added that the jury was especially influenced by photos of a 12-foot-long strip of burned rubber left behind when the defendant accelerated.
“We felt he didn’t care, that there was willful disregard for the safety of others,” the foreman said.
Dempsey said she was pleased with the verdict and the sentence. “I am happy that he will at least serve some time for his crime,” she said. “I feel that the justice system has served me.”