Bad Boy No.2: Billy Lane

From building custom bikers to manslaughter, here is a crime and punishment look at Billy Lane

William David ‘Billy’ Lane became famous through his many appearances on Discovery Channel’s Biker Build-Off programme. He owns his own company called Customs Inc and has written two books, one of them his autobiography Billy Lane’s Chop Fiction: It’s not a Motorcycle, Baby, It’s a Chopper, and another on the art of custom building called Billy Lane’s How to Build Old School Choppers, Bobbers And Customs.

Lane has a degree in mechanical engineering from Florida International University and holds seven US patents on motorcycle parts and accessories. But despite his high level of education, his success in business, and his television fame, he threw it all away in a moment of madness in September 2006 when he had a head-on collision with a scooter rider on Florida Route A1A.

Lane, a 41-year-old from Florida, was already driving on a suspended licence from a previous drink-driving incident in North Carolina. He had refused to provide a breath test at the scene on that occasion and was awaiting a court hearing to resolve the matter on October 4th.

But after a night of drinking at Cocoa Beach on September 4, 2006, Lane was involved in an altogether more serious crash. As he crossed a double yellow line to overtake two cars in his promotional Dodge Ram pick-up truck, he had a head-on collision with 56-year-old Gerald Morelock who was riding a Yamaha moped. The unfortunate Morelock was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash while Lane and his passenger, Erin Derrick, both suffered injuries.

This time police made sure Lane was breathalysed at the scene, telling him that they had the powers to take a blood sample by force if he refused a breath test since the accident had resulted in a death. Lane was found to be more than two times over the legal limit and found himself facing charges of driving under the influence manslaughter (DUI manslaughter), driving while suspended, and causing serious bodily injuries.

He turned himself into police hands on September 25.

The incident polarised the motorcycling community in America, with some people demanding a maximum sentence because Lane had caused the death of a fellow motorcyclist while others felt he should be treated leniently because he was a motorcyclist.

The victim’s brother, Byron Morelock, said of the case, “Revenge is nothing. I’ve got to take myself out of the picture. I just know my brother would want something positive out of this thing. Gerry was a sweet guy and he never wanted to hurt anybody, and even when someone would hurt him… he’d say ‘Don’t worry about it.’”

Lane originally faced a 30-year prison sentence, but his defence team eventually struck a plea deal and on August 14, 2009 he was sentenced to six years in Avon Park Work Camp, as well as three years of supervised probation. And he lost his driving licence for life. Lane is due to be released on June 7, 2015.

Bad Boy No 1: Marco Lucchinelli | Bad Boy No 3: Juan Garriga