San Ramon: Lawyer's hit-and-run conviction reduced to misdemeanor in Dublin fatality

Judge also allows Spencer Freeman Smith to delay jail time

A judge decided to downgrade the felony conviction of a lawyer who admitted to hitting and killing a man with his car in Dublin in 2012, reducing the felony hit-and-run count to a misdemeanor.

Spencer Freeman Smith, who lived in San Ramon at the time of the crash, pleaded guilty last month to felony hit-and-run and misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter, and he was sentenced to one month in jail, 11 months of electronic monitoring and five years of probation.

However, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Michael Gaffey granted a defense request Oct. 9 to reduce Smith's felony to a misdemeanor and allow him to serve his month in jail after undergoing electronic monitoring -- rather than serving his jail time first. The defense motion was granted against prosecutors' "strenuous objection," Alameda County District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Teresa Drenick said.

Smith was arrested in May 2012 in connection with the hit-and-run death of Chinese national Bo Hu, 57, who was bicycling on Dougherty Road near Fall Creek Road in Dublin, a section of road that did not have bike lanes.

Smith didn't stop and drove back to his San Ramon home, where police later found his damaged black 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS55, according to authorities.

Smith, who is listed as a partner at the San Francisco-based employment law firm of Smith Patten, initially pleaded not guilty and tried to renegotiate a plea deal in 2013.

A litany of postponements, plea changes and other delays pushed the case back to Sept. 11, when Smith changed his plea to guilty and was formally sentenced on Sept. 25.

According to the California Bar's website, Smith was temporarily suspended from practicing law on April 15, but two days later that suspension was reversed. He is currently listed as an actively practicing lawyer.

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17 people like this
Posted by John Adams
a resident of Danville
on Oct 19, 2015 at 9:47 am

Looks like the legal profession takes care of their own! I wonder why we become cynical about receiving equal justice.

6 people like this
Posted by C. R. Mudgeon
a resident of Danville
on Oct 19, 2015 at 10:35 am

This seems highly unusual, to have a felony reduced to a misdemeanor, AFTER the person has already pleaded guilty to the felony charge. The CC Times had an editorial / opinion column a couple of days ago on this decision, which makes for interesting reading. Justice is supposed to be "blind", and impartial....

7 people like this
Posted by TomT
a resident of Danville
on Oct 19, 2015 at 10:39 am

I wonder if Chinese Lives Matter??> hit-and-run death of Chinese national Bo Hu
When you are a Lawyer?

15 people like this
Posted by Susan G
a resident of Danville
on Oct 19, 2015 at 11:43 am

Wrong, wrong, wrong! Hit and run is a cowardly act in any case, but when it causes a death, it deserves real jail time.

Like this comment
Posted by A Driver
a resident of Danville
on Oct 19, 2015 at 12:36 pm

There is a bike lane, separate from the street, in this area. It is not safe to ride a bicycle on the street (in the vehicle lane --- no paved shoulder here) at any time of day or night.

7 people like this
Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Danville
on Oct 19, 2015 at 2:12 pm

Why did your article omit the name of the judge? and perhaps include when his/her term is up.

7 people like this
Posted by John Langen
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 19, 2015 at 5:10 pm

Must be the old Buddy system! Why are lawyers and judges immune to the laws of the land. Bad enough only a 30 day sentence but for what reason was this case reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor?..

7 people like this
Posted by Pedal Power
a resident of Danville
on Oct 19, 2015 at 8:34 pm

According to my interpretation of the previously posted (on the Pleasanton Weekly site*) bar association link, and the document dated June 10, 2015, he was reinstated because he was not yet convicted (or some such - I am not an attorney) BUT he is required to notify the bar within 10 days and should then be disbarred if he is "placed on disciplinary probation by any court. You can only hope...
Web Link
Mercury News says: "Judge Michael Gaffey sentenced Spencer Freeman Smith, 34, to five years felony probation and a year in county jail but noted that Smith could apply to serve out his jail sentence via electronic home detention after spending 30 days at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin."
Makes you wonder who he could apply to and how they might be persuaded that society is better served by keeping this reprehensible excuse for a human being locked up for the maximum amount of time.

8 people like this
Posted by frankly
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 21, 2015 at 7:26 am

Self admitted hit and run; killed someone; ran away from the scene of the crime; hide out till he decided to step forward.


So killing one is not a major crime, is not a felonious act and he gets off with a slap on the wrist!!!!!



9 people like this
Posted by Herman Glates
a resident of Danville
on Oct 21, 2015 at 1:40 pm

Herman Glates is a registered user.

CC Times said Smith killed the guy after a night of drinking with a paralegal from his firm.

Smith's mom worked for the Alameda County Superior Court for decades.
Web Link

Maybe that’s why he got a good deal.

Smith moved to So. Cal. If he’s smart, he’d change his name too. People will forget.

He can’t change his Calif. Bar number though.

It’s 236587.

10 people like this
Posted by Jo-Ann Jacobson
a resident of Alamo
on Oct 21, 2015 at 2:00 pm

This is too horrible to fathom. This man killed an innocent man and then RAN AWAY!!!
Why is he being given special attention and not the full force of our laws. He is an educated man and a member of the Bar Association. He knows BETTER. Why are we the public accepting this atrocity?
Jo-Ann Jacobson

9 people like this
Posted by frankly
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 22, 2015 at 6:15 am

Is it better, no matter what race or color, to be an attorney for self protection?

Does the legal system protect self admitted violent crimes as in killing a person on the road and driving away from the crime?

What judge would allow this? And did we elect that judge to his seat to protect legal colleagues?

Remember this judge when elections come around so you can have your rightful vote counted!!!

5 people like this
Posted by Beth
a resident of Diablo Vista Middle School
on Oct 22, 2015 at 2:44 pm

Wow, just wow. He is active as an attorney and it only shows TWO days that he was not active to practice through the CA State Bar:

Web Link.

This Alameda Judge Michael Gaffey should be in jail for this decision, along with Spencer Smith. (Judge was appointed by Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005.) What a disgusting "legal system" we have. Un-f-ing believable!!! He was likely driving drunk or on some substance, but no mention of that. I think if you hit-and-run and and are caught you should automatically be charged with a DUI as well. It's not manslaughter IMO. You take the wheel intoxicated, so you know you can kill someone. Everyone knows that. You make the choice to drink and drive and risk killing others. If this person killed were a white child living in Blackhawk and not a Chinese tourist (here for his fiancee's niece's college graduation), would the outcome have been the same? Doubt it!!! Spencer Smith working for his OWN SF/LA firm now "Smith/Patten": Web Link How is this allowed???

Web Link

4 people like this
Posted by San Ramon Observer
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 22, 2015 at 3:21 pm

San Ramon Observer is a registered user.

This is simply "How to get away with murder!" Just be a lawyer and cronies with a judge. Well it doesn't do any good to express outrage. So much for trust in the American Legal System.

Here's the new motto, "Smoke a joint (I never have), go to jail. Kill someone in a hit and run, get off scot-free."


3 people like this
Posted by Derek
a resident of Danville
on Oct 22, 2015 at 3:53 pm

Gaffey is a waste of oxygen, I agree, but the real criminal here is (Alameda DA) Nancy O'Malley. That she went after Oakland Occupy protestors with more vigor than the coward Spencer Freeman Smith cannot be disputed. Her office seems to have a highly selective set of criteria for what she deems prosecution-worthy. And now on top of it all, she appears to have designs on the state AG office. I shudder to think.
Web Link
Web Link#

4 people like this
Posted by pep
a resident of Danville
on Oct 22, 2015 at 5:02 pm

I work in the legal field and find this so offensive and disgusting. Sleeze ball gets away with murder!

1 person likes this
Posted by Injustice
a resident of Danville
on Oct 22, 2015 at 8:33 pm

This is a classic example of Chicago style politics at work. Cronism and backdoor deals win the day; an embarassment to the judicial system. This is why I always vote against retaining any judge during elections. Less time for a judge to become corrupt.

2 people like this
Posted by frankly
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 23, 2015 at 5:57 am

SELF ADMITTED ATTORNEY KILLER while driving drunk who fled the scene of his killing and he gets probation with a misdemeanor.

The problem is the judge Gaffey who should be removed at the next election period.

Mark your calendars NOW, not to return judge Gaffey to his cushy seat who ignores the most basic rules of society.

judge Gaffey had an open and shut case, and he flushed it down the toilet.

Citizens need to flush him out SOON at the next election period.


Like this comment
Posted by Ira
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 23, 2015 at 2:06 pm

Reiterating a prior comment: Chinese lives matter.

1 person likes this
Posted by PSMacintosh
a resident of Danville
on Oct 25, 2015 at 9:22 am

This is a DISAPPOINTING and DISILLUSIONING outcome to this case!
Once again, the LEGAL SYSTEM should be ashamed of itself.

Who actually is to blame for this outcome--the Judge or some other pressing persons within the system--I'm not sure. Personally I think the Mother's connections came into play.

This despicable Driver knew that he HIT something, but he intentionally didn't stop to see what he hit--he didn't care enough for life or property.....or, most likely, wanted to get away to hide and cover up his DUI condition. In any case, it is obvious that his driving away was a decision made to serve his own interests at the expense of others, in this case a human life.
That is a felony decision that requires a just outcome.

I'm not sure that losing the ability to practice the occupation of law FOREVER would have been a just decision--on top of his receiving some just criminal sentence and appropriate civil monetary liability to the family. But having a suspended LICENSE and having to fight for and prove one's actual rehabilitation before regaining the ability to practice law, that would have been a just result to my thinking.

This outcome is pure Alameda dirty politics.
I suspect the Judge was more "caught in the middle" of something, rather than his initiating this terrible outcome on his own thinking.

1 person likes this
Posted by frankly
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 26, 2015 at 7:28 am

The behind issue is the judge Gaffey who voluntarily absented himself from doing the moral, right thing ON TOP OF A KILLER ATTORNEY WHO WAS ALLOWED a slap on the wrist for killing a pedestrian while driving drunk!!!

Get rid of judge Gaffey at the next election for a start AND THIS WILL TELL THE OTHER JUDGES TO DO WHAT IS EXPECTED OF ALL CITIZENS!!!
Even renegade attornies, judges who LITERALLY get away with murder.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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