I am gonna start my time with you a little differently this month. I want to make it very clear that what you read this month is my opinion and my opinion alone. I expect to catch some heat over my words and my opinions from time to time but, if I don’t speak out on this incident I would feel like a sellout.
Earlier this month a 56-year-old Florida man was killed in a head-on collision with a Dodge Ram pickup while riding a small Yamaha scooter. The pickup was attempting to pass two vehicles on a section of road marked with a double yellow line. After striking the passenger of the scooter , the pickup proceeded to run over three palm trees before striking a telephone pole. The driver of the pickup was driving on a suspended license from a D.W.I. arrest earlier this year. The driver of the pickup was driving with a .192 blood alcohol level, more than twice the state’s limit of .08.
After reading this, most riders I know would be mad as hell and calling for the pickup driver’s head on a platter. I don’t care if it was George W. Bush or the janitor at your office; all that would matter was a man on a bike was killed by a cager.
The man driving the pickup, as most of you probably are aware, was self-proclaimed Chopper Kingpin Billy Lane.
This is where the story takes a twist. From motorcycle forums, to message boards, to rider’s blogs, I have seen a very disturbing trend. More than a few people out there are actually defending Billy. Before you get too wound up, this is not a “hang Billy” speech, so keep reading. I have read comments where Billy’s actions are referred to as an “unfortunate accident.” Webster’s dictionary defines accident as “an event occurring by chance or unintentionally.” Billy chose to drive on a suspended license, to drive at over twice the legal limit for blood alcohol content, and to pass on a double yellow line. Did Billy intentionally kill Gerry Morelock? I don’t believe he did. On the other hand driving drunk always increases the odds of a wreck. People die in wrecks. Billy has lost friends to sober cage drivers, so what the hell was he thinking driving a big 4-wheel-drive pickup while intoxicated? There was no accident here. Billy chose to drive when his privilege had been suspended. That choice made an accident a conscious decision, no matter the outcome. Another trend has been to lessen the blow of an innocent man’s death by saying “he wasn’t really on a bike.” Gerry Morelock was on a two-wheeled vehicle licensed to operate on the road it was traveling. I don’t give a damn if he was on a moped or a bagger—he WAS on a bike.
What really pisses me off about the whole situation is how the crime and impending prosecution will be perceived. Billy has hired the famous Kepler Funk as his attorney. For those of you who don’t know, Kepler has defended high-profile clients from the infamous “Black Widow” to the NASA engineer sued over the space shuttle. There is no doubt Billy’s sentence will be somewhat less than what you or I could expect. I am not saying Billy should get any more than he deserves. What I am saying is Billy should be punished to the full extent allowed for someone who kills somebody while drunk driving on a suspended license from a PREVIOUS drunk driving offense. Billy has demonstrated blatant disregard for the law. If he had respected his license suspension he would not have killed an innocent man or injured himself and his innocent 22-year-old female passenger. There is also in my mind the question as to why Billy was not arrested before this accident. He is very high profile. I find it hard to believe nobody in law enforcement in the Melbourne area had heard of Billy’s D.W.I arrest in North Carolina. Billy was not arrested immediately after this accident for crossing a double yellow line for good reason. If he had been charged for that infraction the law could not have come back later with the manslaughter and D.W.I. charges. Florida law enforcement is to be applauded for doing their homework and not becoming overzealous.
Billy has made his name by building wicked, cool bikes. Nobody can dispute this. Billy has also marketed himself as a hard partying member of the biker lifestyle. It strikes me as a little funny that this one time party animal has now removed EVERY SINGLE picture from the Choppers Inc. web site that showed him with a trademark Corona or bottle of Jack Daniels in his hand. Don’t believe me? Check for yourself. I am sure this was done at the advice of his legal counsel. I am sure they also wrote his carefully worded statement released almost three weeks after the death of Gerry Morelock:
'We first want to say that we extend our sincere sympathy to Mr. Morelock’s family. Mr. Lane also was injured in the accident, but will cooperate fully in the pending investigation as he recovers.' I hope you all noticed the subtle “Mr. Lane was also injured.” Billy spent the night in the hospital; his victim is DEAD. Another point to keep in mind is Billy had to be restrained forcibly by Florida Highway Patrol officers to even obtain his blood sample at the hospital.
We as the riding community spend every day trying to get legislators to protect us and cagers to respect us. If Billy gets off with a slap on the wrist, what message is being relayed? I’ll tell you—if bikers don’t care about bikers, why should we? When I am driving in my car I am so aware of riders around me I have been known to use my big old Caddy as a way to persuade tailgating drivers to get off a bike’s ass. I truly believe I am this way because my wife and I have been hit. A cage provides a fortress of protection compared to the average scooter. I don’t think I could ever get back on my bike if I knocked somebody off theirs. This doesn’t mean I don’t drive safely around cars but, I am extra sensitive to bikes.
One part of me feels sorry for Billy Lane. At 36 years of age he has plenty of years to be haunted by his actions. I have spoken to Billy on several occasions and I do not believe him to be malicious. What I do believe is his celebrity status may have gotten the better of his judgement. No matter what I think, he has a price to pay. Fame and status should not figure into that price. I realize many people are thinking I haven’t mentioned the good things Billy has done. I ask you this—how many good acts does it take to pay for a human life?
I feel much more sorry for Byron Morelock. Byron is Gerry Morelock’s brother. He gets to spend the rest of his life missing his big brother. He also is charged with the task of helping his son, Gerry’s nephew, get through the loss of a man whose role was part uncle and part grandfather. I have spoken to Byron and will speak to him further. He is strong and he will survive. When he is ready, Cycle Connections will print a memorial to his brother. It’s the least we can do. Too soon the names of the dead become numbers; once they are numbers they are too easily forgotten. Byron and the rest of Gerry’s family will never forget.
By Loney Wilcoxson