Followup: Driver found guilty of assault for hitting bike rider in North Delridge

More than a year after a charge was filed, there’s a verdict in the case of a woman charged with assault for deliberately driving her car into a co-chair of the North Delridge Neighborhood Council. According to court files, King County Superior Court jury has found 38-year-old Erika Soerensen guilty of second-degree assault against 33-year-old Jake Vanderplas. After two days of deliberations, jurors reached the verdict this past Wednesday, two weeks after proceedings began with pre-trial motions.

The assault happened near 26th SW/SW Andover on July 8, 2013, and first came to light later that day in a letter by Vanderplas, sent to and published by Seattle Bike Blog later that day. Police found Soerensen six days later, slowed by the fact it had a California plate but had been sold to her a few months earlier; prosecutors charged her in October with second-degree assault, of which she has now been found guilty.

The investigation indicated that Soerensen had first passed Vanderplas “at a high rate of speed” while northbound on 26th SW, a neighborhood-greenway street; he then passed her, and after following him at 20 mph for several blocks, repeatedly honking her horn, she swerved into Vanderplas, who suffered a hand injury, and then she drove away; police tracked her down about a week later. As noted in charging documents, her 2002 Nissan Sentra “has a curb weight of 2,519 pounds” while Vanderplas’s 2007 Schwinn LeTour bicycle weighs about 30 pounds.

Her sentencing is set for January 9th, in the courtroom of Judge Regina Cahan, who presided over the trial. The standard range for that crime is three to nine months’ imprisonment.

36 Replies to "Followup: Driver found guilty of assault for hitting bike rider in North Delridge"

  • colleen November 21, 2014 (2:10 pm)

    Let’s hope Erika Soerensen receives the high end of the sentencing range.

  • chas redmond November 21, 2014 (2:23 pm)

    Jake, thank you for all our efforts with the Greenway and with pursuing this individual. I love that intersection now that folks are beginning to heed the 20 mph limit. And, it’s only appropriate – there’s kids everywhere around there on any given day as well as cyclists and other peds. Thanks again.

  • rob November 21, 2014 (2:34 pm)

    i don’t understand why she was only charged with assault. what about hit and run or leaving the scene of an accident?

  • Jeff November 21, 2014 (2:53 pm)

    Good, she deserves it.

  • ChefJoe November 21, 2014 (2:57 pm)

    or vulnerable user fines for hitting the cyclist or failure to register vehicle within so many days of moving here ?

  • anonyme November 21, 2014 (3:06 pm)

    I agree with rob. The charge seems inadequate. Her intent was clearly to cause injury, and he could have been killed. Nine months isn’t much; let’s hope they’re not easy ones.

  • Lauri November 21, 2014 (3:31 pm)

    I think there may be a little bit of Erika in many of us drivers. If we put half as much preparation into our travels as a bike rider must (considering weather, traffic, the safety of everyone we encounter on our route) and – most importantly – if we leave 5-10 minutes earlier, we may be able to keep everybody alive and unhurt.

  • flimflam November 21, 2014 (3:53 pm)

    wow, what a piece of work. as others have said, I hope she receives the high end of her measly 3-9 month sentence. not holding my breath…

  • ktrapp November 21, 2014 (4:22 pm)

    I agree with the other comments here. If ever there was a case where multiple charges should have been added, this was one of them. On top of the assault, she fled the scene and gave false reports when confronted. Not to mention the taxpayer money spent taking this to trial, when she should have taken any plea deal that was offered to her. I’m also curious as to why it took the jury 2 days to reach a decision. Multiple eye witness statements collaborating the cyclist’s version of the events, including the license plate and description of the driver. Having sat on juries, I’m left wondering what was there to deliberate for so long!

  • Don Brubeck November 21, 2014 (5:04 pm)

    Good to see justice for Jake.

    Let’s all walk, ride, and drive with patience and care for each other.

  • zark00 November 21, 2014 (5:55 pm)

    Biker should sue her in civil court too – I’d like to see her paying for this for the next 20-30 years.

  • amalia November 21, 2014 (6:12 pm)

    Wow. While I agree with the comments, I can’t believe that A) the police followed up, B) she was charged, and C) she was found guilty. These road rage incidents happen all the time, and rarely is justice served. This is big. Many, many thanks to the drivers who pursued her and got her license plate!

  • West Seattle Hipster November 21, 2014 (6:16 pm)

    I concur with Zark00, I hope she is held accountable in civil court, because she wasn’t held accountable in criminal court.

  • Bucky November 21, 2014 (8:29 pm)


    Not sure I follow. She was convicted of a Class B felony for an incident that resulted in no injury. In days gone by, a traffic ticket would have been considered an overreach by the judicial system.

    Let’s not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

  • KM November 21, 2014 (8:39 pm)

    While the punishment seems on the lighter side, I’m happy to see them prosecuting road rage issues, as they seemed to be often overlooked, especially involving cyclists.

  • ScubaFrog November 21, 2014 (10:05 pm)

    This wasn’t “Justice for Jake”. This woman tried to kill him. 9 months (apparently being the high-end of the sentencing rage) is no punishment for what Erika did to Jake.

  • Karl November 21, 2014 (10:37 pm)

    This is ridiculous. Assault with a deadly weapon, fleeing from the scene of accident, vulnerable user, failure to register vehicle, and all they get charged with is 2nd Degree?

    I refuse to be satisfied with the fact that for once the police did their jobs and the prosecutor partially did.

    If these crimes were treated as serious as they actually are they’d happen a lot less often.

  • McGruff November 22, 2014 (9:44 am)

    They need to make an example of this woman; too many people are speeding and driving aggressively in this area. Give her the 9 months, and I hope she starts binge-watching “Orange is the New Black”; that should ease the transition to life in the Pokey.

  • Legal beagle November 22, 2014 (10:11 am)

    To those who think the charge wasn’t serious enough, Assault 2 IS assault with a deadly weapon. This is the most serious charge that could have been leveled–more serious than hit & run or an infraction. This is the first road rage case that I can remember that went to trial with Assault 2. This is a big verdict AND the most serious consequences she could face.

  • K November 22, 2014 (11:08 am)

    Assault 2 is a “strike” offense. It will follow her for the rest of her life.

  • ChefJoe November 22, 2014 (12:28 pm)

    Legal Beagle, but that was the one charge pushed forward and, if the conviction had failed, would all the other potential infractions have been moot and the driver been let off entirely ? Could less serious charges be assigned so much later if they weren’t brought forward initially ?

    Vulnerable user law applies, failure to register a vehicle applies, and impeding an investigation also applies.

  • Legal beagle November 22, 2014 (2:08 pm)

    I’d assume that the jury was given the option of less serious charges if they couldn’t convict as charged. Something like an infraction (like the vulnerable user) doesn’t go before a jury.

    • WSB November 22, 2014 (2:19 pm)

      Yes, the verdict forms are all in the court document files online, which I went into as soon as we heard the case had concluded; this case had been on my watchlist for the past year, with endless continuances (apparently Soerensen now lives in another state?) and it went to trial between two of my every-two-week-or-so checks – I would have liked to have covered the trial itself but didn’t find out about it until it was almost over. So few of the cases on our watch list ever go to trial – if you follow our news coverage closely, you know most cases resolve with plea agreements; the two murder trials we’ve covered in the past ~5 years were rare exceptions. Anyway, re: the verdict forms, if they hadn’t convicted on this charge, there was a lesser charge, third-degree assault, as an option, per Verdict Form C. – TR

  • Bucky November 22, 2014 (3:30 pm)

    I actually watched a good share of the testimony. One key point is that there was scanty physical evidence of an actual collision (i.e. no medical testimony, no evidence of damage to the car, an the bike itself was not entered as evidence) That’s not to say a physical collision didn’t occur, but ultimately the jury needed to make a decision based on actual evidence admitted during the trial.

    So, at the end of the day, she was convicted on the basis of her actions and presumed intent. And, to me, that the jury convicted of 2nd degree assault (vs. 3rd or 4th, the other two options) is pretty amazing.

    • WSB November 22, 2014 (3:36 pm)

      Bucky – having read the charging docs and trial briefs, I’ll ask: what about the spot dent reported on the defendant’s car? Might have been ruled out pre-trial, but that was brought up a few places in documents.

  • Bucky November 22, 2014 (3:46 pm)

    There was considerable testimony about the dent. There was pretty credible testimony that a) the dent was pre-existing and b) it ‘punctate’ and not consistent with either a strike of a person or a bike and c) that it was low enough on the door that it was difficult to postulate that the accident caused it. Finally, Jake testified that he rode the bike to the U District following the incident.

    It’s possible there was something additional said during other parts of the trial, but that’s what I heard.

  • Bucky November 22, 2014 (4:27 pm)

    While I was watching, there was pretty credible testimony that the dent was not relevant to the case. Could have been other testimony I didn’t hear, but it seemed like the prosecution was aware that this wasn’t what the case hinged on.

  • rob November 22, 2014 (4:30 pm)

    several years ago, my cousin was killed by a drunk driver. when they eventually found the guy he was charged with vehicular homicide, but he was also charged with several other things. i don’t recall exactly what the charge was but i understood it to be because he took off after the collision, so i referred to it as “hit and run” above. i imagine the fact she took off and the police had to track her down will have an effect on the sentence ultimately handed out, but I don’t understand why there weren’t additional charges for it.

  • Bucky November 22, 2014 (5:10 pm)


    That’s a good question. I’m not a lawyer, but I’m speculating that because the prosecution lacked solid evidence for a physical collision, they may have felt that they’d be unable to prove ‘hit and run’ if they couldn’t prove ‘hit.’

  • Legal beagle November 22, 2014 (6:44 pm)

    I didn’t watch trial, but I’m guessing that Bucky’s right. There are a number of strategic considerations that have to be made when considering what charges to pursue. One is a concern that if you reach too far, the jury will be annoyed. Another is that the jury will take the “easy” way out, and not spend time (in this case TWO DAYS) deliberating on the most serious charge.

    I’m very sorry to hear about your cousin, Rob. In a vehicular homicide case, adding hit & run actually affects the driver’s “offender score,” which means that they’d face a higher sentence on the Vehicular Homicide (than had they just be convicted of Vhom without Hit & Run). It doesn’t work that way with the Assault 2, so there really wasn’t much to gain from bringing the Hit & Run charge.

    Her license will be suspended for some time as a result of this charge. And she’ll face some financial penalties, in addition to any jail time.

  • wscommuter November 22, 2014 (11:22 pm)

    Hit and run is a misdemeanor; it would have added nothing to the standard range calculation. 3-9 months is the standard range for a first felony conviction for Assault Second Degree, and as noted above, it is a “strike” offense under our 3 Strikes law. This is actually quite a serious felony conviction.

    If you don’t like the sentence range, don’t blame the prosecutor or the judge – take it up with your state legislators. The legislature sets the standard ranges for all felonies.

  • Google November 23, 2014 (9:59 am)

    Amazing what you can find out about someone when you Google their name/location … just sayin’.

  • Al November 23, 2014 (11:22 am)

    Ah, no, the legislature does not set the presumptive ranges. They’re set by the Sentencing Commission. The legislature sets the statutory maximums, which are considerably higher than the presumptive ranges. (Presumptive ranges take into account the seriousness of the offense and the defendant’s record of prior felony convictions.)

  • user x November 23, 2014 (3:16 pm)

    Any idea of how the charges would have stacked up if Ms. Soerensen had chased a complete stranger for a block while screaming and waving a gun before shooting him and leaving him to die? I have nothing to base this on but I would bet cash money the sentence would have been higher.

  • William November 24, 2014 (10:46 am)

    I agree with Amalia above, it is shocking there was any follow up by the police or legal system on this, let alone charges and a conviction. So the final outcome is a big win for cyclists.

    I’ve ridden my bike in West Seattle for almost 20 years. I ride about 5 days a week on average. West Seattle drivers are generally well-intentioned and considerate of cyclists, but most are completely ignorant of the rules of the road and the dangers their actions driving a vehicle present to cyclists. Luckily, only a very small (but unfortunately impactful) percentage of drivers are in the category of Sorensen – angry and vengeful against cyclists. For those of you that are sometimes baffled and/or irritated by the behavior of cyclists, please remember that we are often trying to protect ourselves from driver ignorance and the Sorensens of the world.

  • David Bosch November 24, 2014 (3:28 pm)

    I’ve known Jake, and his family, for a long time. As reported, he really is a good guy. I’m so glad that he was not more seriously injured and that some good is coming from this ugly act.

Sorry, comment time is over.