Man fights charges in Menlo Park hit-and-run case

A 77-year-old Hillsborough man accused of nearly killing a Menlo Park bicyclist while driving drunk rejected a plea bargain Monday and indicated he will fight a hit-and-run charge.

Two days before Christmas Day in 2006, retired contractor Walter Sorenson allegedly drove a red pickup truck onto the shoulder of Sand Hill Road, slamming into 43-year-old MaryAnn Levenson. Police say he dragged the sports nutritionist about 35 feet before stopping. Levenson suffered a broken jaw, hip and vertebrae, a crushed larynx and a mangled right ankle.

Sorenson is facing six years in prison for attempted hit-and-run and causing great bodily harm while under the influence of alcohol. On Monday, Sorenson’s attorney, James Blackman, turned down a plea deal and will instead fight the charge of attempted hit-and-run. Prosecutors say Sorenson had a .07 blood alcohol level — just below the state legal limit — two hours after the crash.

“Witnesses state he traveled about 100 feet beyond the point of impact,” Deputy District Attorney Brian Donnellan said.

When asked whether Sorenson might not have been aware that he hit a bicyclist, Donnellan said, “That might be what the defense will argue. But the bike was stuck in his front bumper.”

Levenson, a Menlo Park resident and an avid bicyclist, has appeared at past court hearings, limping from pain. Since the incident, she has managed to get back to biking every day and enter bike competitions. In May, she told The Examiner that Sorenson should seek help for drinking.

“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.

Blackman did not return calls for comment Monday. Sorenson does not have a criminal record and is out of custody on $50,000 bail.

bfoley@examiner.com

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