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Novato man gets 3 years in hit-and-run that injured four bicyclists west of Petaluma

A Novato man who fled after his pickup plowed into four bicyclists west of Petaluma last October was sentenced to three years in state prison by a Marin County judge on Monday.

The sentence was the maximum possible for Aaron Michael Paff, 22, who pleaded guilty to two felony hit-and-run charges as part of a plea deal, Marin County Deputy District Attorney Aicha Mievis said after the sentencing hearing.

Paff, who graduated from Casa Grande High School in Petaluma, kept his head down and eyes fixed on his hands as one of the four men he injured, Spencer Fast of Mill Valley, described the aftermath of the collision in court.

“By all accounts, I’m lucky to be alive,” Fast told the judge. He said he underwent three surgeries in the days after the crash, in which he broke several ribs, suffered brain injuries and almost lost an eye.

He described dozens of doctor’s appointments and said a long, red scar running down his forehead serves as a reminder of the collision.

“The damage is there every day,” he said. “I’m grateful for the support behind me.”

One other victim, Robert Grier of Danville, also attended the hearing but did not address the court.

The other two injured men, Oliver Colvin of Larkspur and Danville resident Joseph Olla, were not present Monday, Grier said.

The incident played out early Oct. 7 as all four men participated in a charity bicycling event sponsored by the Marin County Bicycle Coalition.

Authorities said the men were hit by a Dodge Ram pickup on Point Reyes-Petaluma Road, located outside of Petaluma, and the driver sped away. Witnesses reported they thought the crash was intentional, saying the car appeared to steer left, then swerve to the right to strike the cyclists before speeding away, the CHP said after the collision.

The crash left bicycle parts and helmets strewn across the roadway and shoulder.

Fast was air-lifted to the Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital after the hit-and-run. The three others were taken to Marin General Hospital.

Authorities used video taken by a motorcyclist wearing a helmet-mounted camera to track down the driver, later identified as Paff. The CHP posted screenshots of the video online, leading at least two people to call the agency and provide Paff’s name and address.

Paff, who formerly worked for the Marin Municipal Water District, was arrested shortly before midnight but was released on $50,000 bail the next day. He’s remained in custody after pleading guilty at a hearing last month, Mievis said.

About 20 people attended the hearing to see how the judge would rule in the case. That included Fast’s wife and two daughters, as well as several members of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition.

“So many of the ride participants rolled past that scene and saw it, and it was so striking,” said Jim Elias, the executive director for the group. “It remains in all of our minds.”

Elias said he now rides with cameras mounted on his bike as a result of the incident.

Paff’s mother, Vicki Paff, and sister also attended the hearing. She was surrounded by a small group of other women after sentencing.

“I just want everyone to know that my son is a good, decent human being that made a mistake,” Vicki Paff said outside of the courtroom after the sentencing. “He would never do this on purpose.”

Nashelly Chavez

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, The Press Democrat 

Who calls the North Bay home and how do their backgrounds, socioeconomic status and other factors shape their experiences? What cultures, traditions and religions are celebrated where we live? These are the questions that drive me as I cover diversity, equity and inclusion in Sonoma County and beyond.   

 

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