Driver Who Struck, Killed Bicyclist Sentenced

Joseph Ricardo Fernandez Convicted In Death Of James Swarzman

A motorist who struck a bicyclist near Leucadia State Beach in Encinitas, then left the scene, was sentenced Monday to two years in state prison.

Joseph Ricardo Fernandez, 46, was convicted in July of hit-and-run causing death. His sentence was handed down by Vista Superior Court Judge K. Michael Kirkman.

James Swarzman was riding with friends when he was struck from behind about 1 a.m. on April 10 in the 1200 block of North Coast Highway 101, said sheriff's Sgt. Mark O'Connor. The driver of the Dodge Ram 1500 did not stop, and the 47-year-old Encino resident died several hours later at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla. Swarzman was a few hours from completing the Temecula 600, 600K ultraride, when the crash happened.

Fernandez, a Carlsbad resident, came forward the next day to say he believed he might have been involved in the crash, O'Connor said.

Swarzman's friends and family members wore bands on their wrists in his memory.

"I carried my son into this world with all the love, hope and dreams that he would live a long and happy life. I never thought I would be the one to see him to his natural resting place," said Swarzman's mother, Linda Swarzman.

"I personally forgive you," Swarzman's father, Judd Swarzman, said to Fernandez. "I know you didn't intentionally go out to kill someone that day."

Still, Swarzman's loved ones pleaded for the maximum of four years.

"The person responsible for his death must be held responsible," said Linda Swarzman.

Swarman's fiancee, famed rider Nicole Honda, was too distraught to be in court.

A prosecutor read her words: "I'll never stop seeing my love who I rejoiced in life -- die by the side of the road with no more concern from you than if you had hit a piece of garbage."

Fernandez declined to make a statement and requested his attorney speak on his behalf.

"He told the officers, he told several people that if he could trade places with you son ... he would do it in a second," said James Dicks, Fernandez's attorney.

In the end, Kirkman decided on a two-year prison sentence, factoring in Fernandez's clean record and the fact he turned himself in.

"He received two years. He will probably be out of prison in 10 months. That's the sad thing; it's a disappointment," Linda Swarzman said.

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