Deputy pleads not guilty in road deaths of two bicyclists

A Santa Clara County sheriff’s deputy charged with hitting and killing two Bay Area competitive bicyclists  with his car in March pleaded not guilty Monday.

The attorney for Deputy James Council, 27, who is out of custody, entered the plea to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence.

Council is charged with the deaths of Matt Peterson, 29, of San Francisco, and Kristina Gough, 31, of Oakland. His patrol car struck the bicyclists, who were on a training ride, on March 9 on Stevens Canyon Road in Cupertino.

A third bicyclist was injured, but Council was not charged in connection with that injury.

The California Highway Patrol said the deputy’s car crossed the double yellow line on Stevens Canyon Road around 11 a.m., striking the three cyclists. The officer had said he had fallen asleep at the wheel.

He had been working nearly five hours into his shift after working a 12½-hour shift the day before, Council’s attorney has said.

Council faces two years in jail if convicted of both charges. He does not face felony charges because he was not recklessly driving and was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, prosecutors have said.

Officials from the CHP, which investigated the fatal incident, recommended misdemeanor charges when they handed their investigation report to prosecutors in April.

A pretrial conference is scheduled for Sept. 15.

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