Accused drunk driver’s liberty irks victim

77-year-old Hillsborough man, charged with felony drunken driving causing bodily harm in a crash that left a bicyclist with multiple injuries, pleaded not guilty Friday as the victim vented her frustration that the driver is free on bail.

On the afternoon of Dec. 23, 2006, Walter Sorenson allegedly drove his red truck across two lanes of Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park and struck bicyclist MaryAnn Levenson as she was riding on the shoulder, prosecutors said.

She was dragged about 35 feet after the impact and suffered a broken jaw, hip and vertebrae as well as a crushed larynx and a severely cut right heel.

Levenson, a Menlo Park resident and an avid bicyclist, was at court Friday sitting directly behind Sorenson as she heard his arraignment.

Still limping from pain in her hip, Levinson said it is frustrating knowing that Sorenson is free after posting $50,000 bail.

“I want him to have rehab. If he has a [drinking] problem, he needs to get treated. It upsets me and it makes my kids really angry,” she said.

Deputy District Attorney Josh Stauffer said Sorenson, a longtime contractor, could face up to six years in prison if convicted. Sorenson had a .07 blood alcohol level, below the state legal limit of .08, from a test taken two hours after the crash, prosecutors said.

Sorenson’s attorney, Jim Blackman, said his client hopes Levenson will make a full recovery.

“He remains very concerned about the well-being and recovery of Ms. Levenson,” Blackman said. “We are hopeful for an appropriate outcome of the case through the District Attorney’s Office.”

Levenson is back to biking everyday, which she views as a personal way of fighting back against drunken drivers. She was recently appointed to the Menlo Park Bicycle Commission in an effort to promote and implement bike safety projects. Two months ago, she and bike coach Dan Smith completed a Lance Armstrong Foundation race, a 10-mile trek on Canada Road.

She said by getting involved in bike advocacy campaigns, she wants to show her 10-year-old son and her 7-year-old twin boys that they should not live in fear.

“It’s great to be alive,” she said.

Sorenson will be back in court Aug. 20 for a pre-trial conference before his first day of trial Sept. 4.

bfoley@examiner.com  

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