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Posted on Mon, Feb 22, 2010 : 8:30 p.m.

Driver sentenced to probation in death of bicyclist in Pittsfield Township

By Tom Perkins

A driver whose van struck and killed a bicyclist in Pittsfield Township in July was sentenced today to two years of probation.

Nicholas Wahl, 20, of Clinton, pleaded guilty to negligent homicide in a sentencing agreement that allowed him to avoid jail time in the death of Tim Pincikowski, 45, of Saline.


Tim Pincikowski

Judge Melinda Morris sentenced Wahl under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, which means he won't have a criminal record if he successfully completes probation.

Joe Simon, Wahl’s attorney, said the most significant stipulation of his probation is that Wahl will give lectures and speak to groups of youth about what happened on that day, and the dangers of not paying complete attention while driving.

Wahl also was ordered to pay $8,300 in funeral costs and roughly $1,500 in court costs, Simon said.

Wahl admitted to police he took his eyes off the road for a moment to change the radio station just before his van struck Pincikowski. He was driving north on Maple Road in Pittsfield Township on July 28 around 5 p.m. when the accident occurred.

Witnesses testified Pincikowski was riding on the fog line or in roadway close to the line near the moment of the accident.

Thumbnail image for 072809Accident.jpg

The crash occurred along this stretch of Maple Road in Pittsfield Township. - File photo

Mike Pincikowski, Tim Pincikowski’s son, said after the sentencing that the punishment is what his family was looking for, and jail time would only have served to hurt Wahl's family and take more out of his life.

“We didn’t want anything negative to come out of it for anybody,” Mike Pincikowski said. “And what was given as a sentence to Nicholas is something that myself and my family believes is beneficial to himself and the community in a way that a jail sentence never could be.”

A statement prepared by Pincikowski’s brother and sister, Scott Pincikowski and Karen Gross, which was read before the sentencing, conveyed the same sentiment.

“What Nicholas did seemed innocent,” they said. “He chose to change a preset radio station, something we have all done. But he chose a time to do so when it posed a hazard to others on the road. He saw our brother ahead of him. He thought he had time. He killed our brother ... It would serve no purpose for Nicholas to spend time in jail. Even Tim would say this.”

Simon said the accident didn’t involve drinking, texting or fooling around, He said Wahl, who has no prior criminal convictions, is considered an upstanding citizen.

He called the accident “tragic.”

“By all accounts, you have two wonderful humans who came together on that day,” Simon said.

Tom Perkins is a freelance writer for Reach the news desk at or 734-623-2530.



Wed, Feb 24, 2010 : 5 p.m.

debling "Secondly, the use of the word "accident" by some of Nicholas's friends and supporters is incorrect and disingenuous. It implies the event was unavoidable and no one is at fault." The term "accident" is used every day all across the country to describe events that happen. Given your definition I would like you to describe to us what falls into the category of an accident? I submit that given your understanding of an "accident" we strike the word from the English language! Because there is no such thing. You suggest he: "make real sacrifices in his life to deal with the consequences of his mistakes, "accident" or not" How in the world can any of us be the in a position to judge what kind of sacrifices this young man has or has not made? Or will be making? For anyone to insinuate that this was anything but a tragic accident is where the disingenuous comes in. The world would sure be a better place if it was filled with more bitter unforgiving individuals!


Wed, Feb 24, 2010 : 2:28 p.m.

To clarify this one more time, during the pretrial hearing (and I was there), Judge Simpson made it clear that where Tim was in relationship to the fog line was irrelevant. Under Michigan Law, the obligation is on the driver to pass a cyclist safely whether the cyclist is over the fog line or not. Secondly, the use of the word "accident" by some of Nicholas's friends and supporters is incorrect and disingenuous. It implies the event was unavoidable and no one is at fault. Nicholas pleaded guilty to "negligent" homicide. This means he was the cause of the death, which was due to his failure to use reasonable care. There is a huge difference in the two. If this were an "accident", Nicholas would not be at fault and have liability. Since it is "negligence", Nicholas must bear the consequences of his actions (criminal or civil). There is also a moral element to this as well. A person of high moral character would believe he has a responsibility and duty above and beyond that imposed by the courts to atone for his actions and voluntarily compensate the victim and/or victim's family. Only time will tell if Nicholas will rise to the level expected of him. Finally, I continue to hear people call for "forgiveness" but they confuse this with "let him off the hook". Forgiveness does not mean Nicholas should not be punished. It means in the long term, the victims accept and are at peace with what happened and understand that Nicholas's actions were careless but not malicious. It comes from accepting that Nicholas bears guilt and remorse for his actions, asks forgiveness and wishes to atone but it does not mean we think he has paid enough of a price. I give this example to think over. Imagine your child is playing baseball on the street (instead of the park where you told him to). Now imagine he is goofing around and hits the ball into a neighbors window, smashes it and hits someone in the head. The neighbor goes to the hospital with a concussion and there is damage in the house. What do you do? Some commenters on this article would seem to be saying "Oh well, he's a nice kid and I'm sure he feels bad enough and will have to live with the guilt of this. What purpose would it serve to punish him so let's forgive him and let him get on with his life". The responsible way of dealing with this would be to a) make the kid apologize to the neighbor for what he did, b) make him (parents can help) pay for the costs (Window, home damage, medical expenses) out of his savings and/or future allowances, c) make him help clean up the mess, d) impose a consequence (grounding, no TV, etc.) for a period of time, commensorate with what he did. In the case of Nicholas, we can forgive him for his mistakes on 7-28-2009; after all he is only human. However, we expect him to own up to his responsibilities to the Pincikowski family and to society and make real sacrifices in his life to deal with the consequences of his mistakes, "accident" or not. This mild probation imposed by Judge Morris just doesn't cut it.


Wed, Feb 24, 2010 : 2:27 p.m.

I find the majority of the comments here very disgusting. To all the anti-bikers and pro-bikers... give it a rest. Here are the facts: 1. The prosecutor agreed with the sentence 2. The Pincikowski family AGREE's with the sentence 3. If they choose to pursue a civil suit that is THEIR choice to do so. The grieving process has been drawn out longer than normal due to the court process and both families can now move on to the healing/forgiving process. You all need to take your anti/pro biking, political soapbox statements to some other social networking area where you can banter and leave all the people involved alone. LET THEM MOVE TO THE NEXT STEP!


Wed, Feb 24, 2010 : 8:16 a.m.

Please raise your hand if you have been driving down the street after dark and suddenly there is a cyclist at the edge of the road wearing black with no reflectors or lights. My hand is up multiple times!


Tue, Feb 23, 2010 : 7:46 p.m.

debling, Daniel J. Singer, genericreg, a2cents, in4mation, cautious I wish that all of you could show as much grace as the Pincikowski family. I doubt if there is one of you that has not made a mistake while driving and had a near miss. And I know that there is not one of you that hasn't reached over to change the radio station or talked on your cell phone while driving. What good do YOU accomplish with your self righteous comments? Kevin: very well put Thank You!


Tue, Feb 23, 2010 : 6:08 p.m.

For up most respect to Tim Pincikowski I can't help but read a lot of these comment that makes Nick sound like a murderer. I do understand he has ended someones life, but you have to see the point that it was only a matter of terrible and tragic timing. Perhaps he didn't turn the radio or whatever he was truly "doing." Then what would of happened? This kid is definitely terrified perhaps scar for life. It's not intentional but you make it sound that it was. I say see the bigger picture you claim for a more demanding punishment, but if you put yourself in Wahl's shoes you too will be feeling something we all haven't felt. Think if he read this and heard of all the negativity, would you not feel anything? You claim to want justice, and still your not Pincikowski's family. They made a promising choice because they understood even though it is incredibly hard for them to grasp. We are still human and to be human is to care for all lives. Without that then what are we. Come on people, think critically here. Like what in4mation said No one wins here.. BTW: I am a Friend of Mike Pincikowski


Tue, Feb 23, 2010 : 5:45 p.m.

If we lived long enough, all of us will be involved in some type of accident, some harmful and some not. I think the key here is that the judge and the family was able to determine that there was no willful wrong doing and the family has found it within their hearts to forgive this young man. I think if we all learn the healing power of forgiveness, our world would be a much better place to live. I don't think young man feels that he has gotten away with anything. This is something that he will live with for the rest of his life.

Gregory Fox

Tue, Feb 23, 2010 : 4:56 p.m.

KJMClark states that absent a designated bike lane, Michigan law requires bicyclists to stay to the left of the fog line, even if there is a paved shoulder. This may indeed be the law, but it would seem to defy common survival sense. I've biked across Michigan twice and was happy to use a paved shoulder when it was available. I'll risk violating the letter of the law if it improves my chances of avoiding a disaster. We are at the mercy of the drivers zipping by and placing ourselves in their path when there is a viable alternative right there just doesn't make sense to me.


Tue, Feb 23, 2010 : 4:23 p.m.

No reasonable person can place any of the blame for this accident on the cyclist. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was not riding on Washtenaw or Huron which we all know are really dangerous places for cyclists (but cyclists still have the right to be there). I cycle Jackson Road from Fletcher to S. Maple all the time. It has a large relatively clean space to the right of the fog line, just like Maple. I watch my rear view mirror a little more often since the accident on Maple, but if we quit riding bicycles or anything else for that matter, because there is a remote chance of getting badly injured or killed, we lose. Sitting around home worrying about whether it will be hit by the next airplane that flies over or the next car that passes by is not my idea of a fulfilled life. My best wishes go out to Tim's family, they have maintained a wonderful attitude in the face of their sorrow.


Tue, Feb 23, 2010 : 1:53 p.m.

Everyone makes it sound as if this kid really got away with something. Take a minute to think if it were you. Really think. You live every waking moment knowing that you took the life of someone who was loved dearly. I know people will say, "Well the same could be said for murderers." That's different and you know it. He didn't set out to kill a man that day. I think the victims family is right. Prison would have served no good. And to whoever said it's open season on cyclists...come on. That's a little dramatic.


Tue, Feb 23, 2010 : 1:20 p.m.

"Is the kid also going to pay for the lost earning of the person he killed? Pay for college for this kids left behind? This amounts to a slap on the wrist and devalues human life." So putting a dollar value on the victims life make his life "valuable?" I would say the opposite.

Atticus F.

Tue, Feb 23, 2010 : 12:29 p.m.

Some of these people are talking as if this young man intentionally killed another. this is not the case. It seems some people here dont have the common sense to be able to distinguish between different levels of crime. It was an accident. Who here has never tuned their radio while driving?

Tom Perkins

Tue, Feb 23, 2010 : 12:04 p.m.

In4mation, Wahl plead guilty to negligent homicide, not a traffic violation. Read a little further down on the link you provided and a traffic violation is defined (MCL 257.1). According to Joe Simon, Wahl's attorney, negligent homicide will be taken off the books on October 31. Should a motorist accidentally kill a bicyclist after that date, the driver will not be eligible for this type of sentencing agreement.


Tue, Feb 23, 2010 : 11:21 a.m.

Goodfriend Thank you for your input. Being in the courtroom and witnessing the proceedings firsthand will give you an added dimension that others cannot have. I'm sure the judge has seen hundreds, if not thousands of similar cases. Was this one different? Perhaps. Are you guys so clever that you think you can armchair the judge's decision without ever setting a toe in the courtroom? You must be real good. The families of both sides must be lauded, congratulated, praised for their actions. How often is there a coming together by both sides of the aisle? These people are practitioners of the art of forgiveness and hope.


Tue, Feb 23, 2010 : 11:11 a.m.

Mr Grinch For once, I agree with you in toto. Time to ban tuning the radio, folks. I wonder if there was even a cell phone anywhere in his vehicle.


Tue, Feb 23, 2010 : 10:29 a.m.

While I was originally aghast that Wahl was going to only get probation, if the victims family is content with the sentence, who am I to ask for more? While I think he should have spent some time in the hoosegow, that would cost us all, even the victims family. Incredible grace shown by Mike Pincikowski and family. I think all of us could learn from them.


Tue, Feb 23, 2010 : 10:01 a.m.

"The next time he kills someone" WHAT kind of statement is that. It was a freaking accident.

The Grinch

Tue, Feb 23, 2010 : 9:28 a.m.

I find it interesting that commenters here appear to be far more outraged about the verdict than the family of the victim. To the person who asked "who is going to pay... "? That is a matter for a civil court, if the Pincikowski family so decides to take that path, not for a crimminal court. Where does all of this anger and outrage come from? I grieve for Pincikowski family's loss and commend them for the Christian example of forgiveness that they set. Oh that others might follow their lead.


Tue, Feb 23, 2010 : 9:23 a.m.

I wonder if it was me in this situation would it be different? I do have a flaw, a big one on my record. I after a day at the beach with my family stopped drinking early, ate, relaxed and talked. Then I thought I was fine to drive I proceeded home. I was stopped and was not legal, barely over MI.08 I went to jail.I lost my license for a short time, payed the state for 2 years at 1000.00, court costs well over 3000.00, increased insurance costs.Now I lost my job and this again haunts my chances for reemployment due my dumb mistake. After 50 years this is the first offense I made and a stupid one but I have paid several times foir this and keep paying everyday. Had I been in this situation would I be looked at diffeently because of my past and be tried yet again for my past? I thinks so. Why do some get away with murder and yet others get tried many times for the same offense?


Tue, Feb 23, 2010 : 8:14 a.m.

I also love to cycle but got off the road years ago because I don't want to be killed by a distracted driver. It's ten time worse now with cell phones. We see them weaving all over the road. I do have trouble with using an excuse of changing the radio station as being so distracted as to kill a cyclist? Hmmm.


Tue, Feb 23, 2010 : 7:37 a.m.

While I understand people being upset with this verdict, I think this is the best to be expected. It really doesn't help things to ruin a young person's life for a stupid mistake, when it won't help justice. As long as Mr. Wahl faithfully carries out the talks with young people about what happened, we'll all be well-served by this verdict. Racerx, the law requires bicyclists to bike as near to the right-hand side of the "roadway" as practicable (MCL 257.660a). The roadway starts at the fogline (MCL 257.55 and the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices). Bicyclists are supposed to be to the left of the fogline unless there's a designated bike facility to the right of the fogline. Bicyclists aren't supposed to use paved shoulders that aren't bike lanes, and there wasn't a paved shoulder there anyway.

Lets Get Real

Tue, Feb 23, 2010 : 7:31 a.m.

Seems there is some confusion about terms here. "Driving on or near the fog line" seems to not describe the weater conditions that day, but the marking on the road - more appropriately called the CONTOUR LINE - on the right side of the road, meant to show the contour of the upcoming driving surface, particularly useful when visibility conditions are difficult. We would all do well to check our self-centered attitude at the door when we get into the car to drive. Think of how differently you would behave behind the wheel if you thought of the folks, with whom you share the road, as somebody else's mother or father or sister or brother. Imagine the life changing event this represents for this family. Will they be able to maintain the same lifestyle as before? Afford the rent or mortgage without the lost income? Pay for college for the children? or will they forfeit their dreams because of financial distress? And for the driver? Hmmm. Does he realize what he's caused? Will he, after his speeches? Will he realize the gift he's been given with this sentence? Will he be contrite and humble? Will he become a true advocate for attentive driving? OR with his appearances, will he learn to relish the limelight? Embrace celebrity? Come to believe he deserves special treatment? and expect it in future "mistakes"? Time will only tell.


Tue, Feb 23, 2010 : 7:13 a.m.

Key word "Accident" maybe not using the best judgment, however this was an accident. My prayers go out to both families as they both will have to live with this. Let this be a lesson to motorists and bicyclists, one car not use too much care when they get on the road. I have seen both make foolish mistakes. I thank Judge Morris for her fairness in sentencing.


Tue, Feb 23, 2010 : 6:44 a.m.

To "Racers" the weather was clear and the road was dry. This happened before the storm that day. I was interested to read for the first time that Mr. Wahl SAW Mr. Pincikowski and thought he had time. I was a witness to the collision and assumed that he had never even seen him. The truth, if that is what it is, is more troubling to me. However, I agree that the sentence is as appropriate as it can be. Adding hate to it would serve no positive purpose.

young b/m

Tue, Feb 23, 2010 : 12:32 a.m.

Don't have to guess what color everyone in this case is!


Tue, Feb 23, 2010 : 12:30 a.m.

Someone please explain, what is riding on the fog line or close to it in the roadway? Does not the bicylce rider bares some responsibility, and I do apologize to the Pincikowski family for their loss and I don't mean to be insensitive, due to the weather conditions outside that day?


Mon, Feb 22, 2010 : 11:09 p.m.

As someone present with Mr. Wahl and his family in the courtroom this afternoon, I was deeply appreciative of the Pincikowski family's eloquence and grace. They spoke candidly - and, at times, with tears - of their pain and loss without dissolving into bitterness, asking only that something useful come of this loss. Of course, not even their most heartfelt desires are a substitute for the law. Judge Morris' sentence was not arbitrarily determined, but needed to conform to sentencing guidelines. It did and, furthermore, the prosecution agreed to this sentence. As they spoke, I could not help but nod in agreement as Mr. Pincikowski's family spoke of their pain in reading the contents of this particular blog and the poison so often put forth here as it related to this case. Not because their father and brother was defamed - he was not, nor should he have been. Instead, their pain was for the young man charged in this case as all manner of hateful things were written about him. They made their point with brilliant clarity: their family did not share in this hate nor would their father and brother. Hatred is a choice, and they have chosen to walk a higher road. Accidents will always happen. Its not a legal term, "accidents" - just a word for something unexpected and tragic. No one involved in this case has declared "open season" on anyone. And no one left the courtroom smiling, because nobody won. Nobody. Not the Wahls. Not the Pincikowskis. Not prosecution or the defense, not the judge or the community. Nobody. As each of us left the courthouse this afternoon, all of us moving in different directions, we had at least this one thing in common: the need to find a way to go on with life. Not because its a small thing that happened, but because it was and will always be so terribly, painfully big.


Mon, Feb 22, 2010 : 9:55 p.m.

Read the M-live blog when some of the participants start openly stating that bicycles don't belong on the road and discuss willful, wanton measures to threaten or eliminate cyclists. If you use the roads on a bicycle you have already encountered threatening behavior by motorists or will. As I read this, it appears "they" have won... it's open season on cyclists.

Daniel J. Singer

Mon, Feb 22, 2010 : 9:33 p.m.

Sadly, I must agree with debling's comment.


Mon, Feb 22, 2010 : 9:26 p.m.

This "sentence" imposed by Judge Morris is outrageous. By letting Nicholas go without any substantial consequences, Judge Morris has sent a loud signal to the community that is not a big deal to text, operate the GPS or radio while driving. You may kill someone, but the worst you can get is a few hours of community service and a small fine. The last thing we want is for Nicholas to go talk to young people and show them what happens when you drive while distracted and kill someone. They will see that Washtenaw county doesn't take this seriously. Tim's family members have huge hearts and alot of forgiveness for Nicholas. This is to be commended. But crime victims don't set punishments for criminals. This is up to the public Judge to ensure a) the criminal is punished for the crime, b) the sentence serves as a deterent to others and c) restitution is made. Sadly, none of these happened today. A man was killed last year and the person that did it walked out of courtroom today with a smile.