A motorcyclist who was allegedly driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .12 percent when he hit and critically injured a cable car operator in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood pleaded not guilty today to two felony counts of driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury.
Motorcyclist William Kanta Makepeace, 22, was arrested at about 10:30 p.m. on June 11 near the corner of Taylor and Francisco streets after hitting 50-year-old Reynaldo Abraham “Avy” Morante.
The victim’s brother, Alen Morante, appeared at Makepeace’s San Francisco Superior Court arraignment today and spoke to Makepeace and his parents.
Alen Morante said his brother is “still fighting for his life” and remains in a coma.
Makepeace, who is out of custody after posting $100,000 bail, told Alen Morante, “I’m so sorry for what happened.”
Alen Morante, stifling back tears, urged Makepeace and his parents to pray for his brother.
His brother was taken to San Francisco General Hospital with life-threatening injuries following the crash. He remains on life-support and has had a portion of his skull removed to relieve pressure, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Reynaldo Morante suffered a fractured skull and a traumatic brain injury when Makepeace struck him, police said.
Makepeace remained at the scene of the crash and was promptly arrested, police said.
Makepeace, a lifelong San Francisco resident, attended Skidmore College in Albany, New York, where he studied anthropology and business.
He was vice president of his class, and since his graduation in 2014, he has been employed at Bloomberg LP in San Francisco. He works in financial sales and analytics, according to his Linkedin profile.
Criminal defense attorney Doron Weinberg, who represented Makepeace at his arraignment today, said that Makepeace has no criminal record and is not a flight risk.
Weinberg didn’t dispute the charge that his client was driving under the influence of alcohol or that he caused injury, but he maintained that his client was abiding by the rules of the road when the collision occurred.
“The cable car operator was crossing the street in the dark outside a crosswalk,” Weinberg said.
According to the District Attorney’s Office, Makepeace’s blood alcohol concentration was .12 percent at the scene. In addition, a female passenger on the back of the motorcycle allegedly left the scene of the crash and police had to call her back.
Regarding the female passenger, “the defendant was less than forthcoming,” according to the district attorney’s office.
After Makepeace entered a not guilty plea today, Judge Ethan Schulman said he would “strenuously admonish the defendant,” yet chose not to raise bail from $100,000 to the scheduled amount of $200,000. He also denied the prosecutor’s request that Makepeace be required to use an alcohol-monitoring device.
Schulman did, however, order Makepeace not to drive any motor vehicles.
Following the arraignment, Alen Morante said that Makepeace “shouldn’t have been driving at all” and should have acted more sensibly.
Alen Morante said he is emotional and depressed by what has happened and said he trusts the judge will come to a fair verdict.
“I hope he will learn his lesson,” he said of Makepeace, adding that the defendant is so young and obviously wasn’t thinking about the consequences of his actions when he decided to drive drunk.
Reynaldo Morante has two children who are in college, the victim’s brother said.
Alen Morante said his brother, whom he calls “Avy,” worked as a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency employee for more than 30 years and had switched from being a Muni driver to working as a cable car operator about a year ago.
His brother loved the job and was so thrilled to become a “part of the legend” of San Francisco’s cable cars, Alen Morante said.
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency director of transit operations John Haley commended San Francisco police for the quick work making an arrest in the operator’s injury.
According to the Center for Disease Control’s posted information on blood alcohol concentration and the predictable effects it has on drivers, a person operating a vehicle above blood alcohol concentration of .10 percent has reduced ability to brake appropriately and maintain lane position.
At .15 percent blood alcohol concentration, or roughly seven beers, a typical driver is likely to have “substantial impairment in vehicle control,” far less muscle control than normal, loss of balance and would likely be vomiting, unless they have a high tolerance to alcohol, according to the CDC.
Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News