SANTA CRUZ -- A 63-year-old Tesla driver from Santa Cruz, Navindra Kumar Jain, will be charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter in the death of cyclist Joshua Alper, Santa Cruz County prosecutors said Wednesday.
Alper, 40, was killed on Nov. 2 while riding on Highway 1 north of Santa Cruz.
According to the California Highway Patrol's initial report, Jain fell asleep at the wheel about 11:15 a.m. and struck Alper head-on. Jain was not injured in the crash.
Wednesday, prosecutor Greg Peinado said Jain will be charged with a misdemeanor rather than a felony because evidence suggests that Jain did not "act in such a reckless way that creates a high risk of death."
Peinado said a lengthy investigation included crash-scene analysis, toxicology reports, interviews with witnesses, data from Jain's cellphone and data from the car's computer.
Jain is a retired technology executive who had recently moved from Los Gatos to Santa Cruz. His San Francisco-based attorney, Susan Harriman, declined to comment about the case Wednesday.
Alper was a librarian at UC Santa Cruz and is survived by his wife, Annette Marines -- also a UCSC librarian.
According to the CHP, Alper was riding a road bike south on Highway 1 near Dimeo Lane. Jain was driving north in a black 2013 Tesla S when he crossed the double yellow, drove up a hill, down a hill and struck Alper on the road's shoulder.
Jain remained at the scene and spoke with witnesses and CHP officers.
Tuesday, an attorney for Alper's family also filed a civil suit against Jain for negligence.
The suit -- which also names Palo Alto-based Tesla Motor Co. -- alleges that Jain carelessly and negligently drove into Alper. It also contends that the Tesla in the crash was "defective and unreasonably dangerous when used in a normal, intended and foreseeable manner," according to the lawsuit. The complaint mentions funeral expenses but does not seek a specific amount of money.
Tesla attorneys have not yet responded to the complaint, which was filed in Santa Cruz County Superior Court.
According to the initial CHP report on the crash, Jain bought the car new about 10 days before the crash. He told officers that the car had a strong, new-car smell that prompted him to use a baking soda car freshener in it.
Jain told authorities that the smell caused him to fall asleep and there were no mechanical problems with the car, according to the report.
Terry O'Reilly, an attorney for Alper's family, said Wednesday that he had never heard of a new-car smell hindering a driver in his 44 years of trial experience.
O'Reilly, based in San Mateo, said he did not understand why Santa Cruz County prosecutors plan to charge Jain for a misdemeanor and not a felony.
"If you or I drove across Highway 1 and into the bushes, then steered straight back on to the highway and killed somebody, we would have been hauled off to jail in handcuffs," O'Reilly said.
Jain has not been arrested and prosecutors have not said when he will be arraigned.