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Jury clears armored truck driver in 2005 death of cyclist Margaret ‘Meg’ Sanders in Northampton

A Hampshire Superior Court jury agreed with him when on Thursday it found that driver Rafael Sivilla was not responsible for the collision. The jury ruled that although Sivilla was negligent, that was not a substantial factor in the accident.

Sivilla, 25 and living in Springfield at the time of the Sept. 21, 2005, crash, was never criminally charged after what attorney James Campbell of Boston called a “tremendously detailed” investigation by authorities.

The wrongful death lawsuit was filed on behalf of Sanders’ estate by city attorney Laura Arbeitman, named as administrator of her estate in court papers. Northampton attorney Lee Dawn Daniel, who represented Sanders’ estate in the case, could not be reached for comment Monday.

Sanders, 23, was riding a bicycle when she was struck across from St. Mary’s Church on Elm Street.

Sevilla was represented by Campbell and attorney Kathleen M. Guilfoyle also of Boston.

According to police reports, Sevilla turned into a driveway on the Smith College campus, where is truck hit Sanders, who was also heading toward downtown on her bicycle.

According to witness statements, Sevilla had not been speeding and did not appear to have turned suddenly or abruptly.

Campbell said in a phone interview that Sevilla was traumatized following the crash and going back through the events of that day was difficult for him as it was for everyone involved on both sides of the case.

After a trial that lasted about five days, the case went to the jury April 9, Campbell said. They delivered their verdict late Thursday afternoon after deliberating for about 11 hours.

Sanders was a Hampshire College graduate and Easthampton resident who was raised by her aunt after both of her parents died of AIDS in Tennessee in the early 1990s.

According to friends interviewed by the Gazette following her death, she was an avid cyclist who participated regularly in the Massachusetts Red Ribbon Ride, a fundraising event for AIDS research, and had done volunteer work for AIDS Care Hampshire County.

She served on the relief staff at Safe Passage, an agency that works with battered women, according to staff.

She also had trained with Circus Amok, a New York City circus where she worked as a stage manager and learned to walk on stilts and eat fire, according to a friend interviewed at a memorial for Sanders.

The jury also found Sevilla’s co-worker Richard F. Delany and the company they worked for, AT Systems New England, not responsible for Sanders’ death.

Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@gazettenet.com.

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