Friday, December 12, 2008

Mandeville Canyon Road Rage Case Moves Forward

Dr. Thompson, the emergency room physician who stands accused of the Mandeville Canyon road rage incident that left two cyclists seriously injured, appeared in Los Angeles Superior Court yesterday for his preliminary hearing and it did not go well for him.

Ron Peterson, one of the two injured cyclists, testified to the July 4th incident in which he and Christian Stoehr were riding downhill in Mandeville Canyon, only to encounter the angry Thompson. Peterson claims that Thompson cut them off and then slammed on his brakes, causing both cyclists to hit the car with Stoehr careening through the air to the ground in front of the car and Peterson going through the back window, leaving his broken teeth mixed in with the broken glass in the back seat and cutting his face so severely that his nose was almost completely detached.

LAPD Officer Rodriguez, one of the first responding police officers at the scene, testified that immediately after the incident, Thompson explained that he had lived in Mandeville Canyon for years and that he was tired of the cyclists and that he slammed on the brakes "to teach them a lesson."

Detective Sharon Azpeitia testified on behalf of injured cyclist Christian Stoehr who is out of the country and on behalf of the physicians who treated the cyclists, introducing evidence of the "permanence of their injuries."

The preliminary hearing is the prosecutor's opportunity to convince the judge that a crime has been committed and that there is sufficient evidence to force the defendant to stand trial.

Defense Attorney Peter Swarth did his best to earn his fee, questioning Peterson on his tires and challenging him on his brakes and their ability to stop his bike. Swarth objected in broad strokes, asking that members of the cycling community in attendance be removed from the court on the off-chance that they might be called to testify in the future. The request was denied. He also went after Rodriguez, questioning his credentials and his contact with the defendants and with the press.

Swarth had an another tough obstacle to overcome when Patrick Watson, a cyclist who rides Mandeville Canyon, took the stand. Watson wasn't involved in the July 4th incident but he gave testimony to an incident that occurred in March of this year, when he and "Josh" were riding down Mandeville Canyon. Watson testified that a car came from behind, forced him off the road, and continued downhill. He maintained his balance, rode through the brush and back onto the road, only to be forced off again by the same motorist, this time actually laying down his bike.

"Josh" pursued the motorist, catching up with him and Watson rode to the front of the car and looked at the driver. The cyclists took the drivers license plate and called the police and reported the incident, giving the license plate and auto make/model and driver description to the police. Nothing came of the police report...until now. The prosecutor gave Watson the opportunity to identify the driver who ran him off the road in March and Watson identified Dr. Thompson.

Swarth went after Watson, challenging the identification as a presumption based on the identification of the car. Watson had identified Thompson's red Infiniti and vanity license plate info in the police report. Swarth asked how Watson can be sure that Thompson was driving. Watson responded "Because I stood in front of the car, looked right at him, and then had to jump out of the way as he accelerated his car at me and drove away."

Deputy District Attorney Mary Stone prevailed and the case will proceed forward with a January 15, 2009 arraignment at the same Airport Courthouse.

The charges against Dr. Thompson are: Count 1 - reckless driving causing specified injuries, Count 2 - Battery with serious bodily injury, Count 3 - reckless driving - misdemeanor.

The first two counts are the direct result of the July incident and the third count is a result of the March incident.

As in the past appearance at the same courthouse, Thompson's entourage did their best to shield him and to escort him quickly off the property at the conclusion of the hearing. A large man blocked the public from the elevator as the group raced to their vehicle, only to be stymied when they had to fumble to get the doors unlocked. Once they were safely behind the tinted windows they found themselves blocked by a motorist who wanted to see what the commotion was all about.

The Hollywood getaway, the suggestions of death threats and the positioning of motorists vs. cyclists all give the situation a soap-opera veneer and they might even be defense strategies but at the end of the day, this is simply a case of one man accused of using a weapon to injure and almost kill two other men.

Video credit: User1


Will Campbell said...

Awesome coverage Stephen (and I thought I recognized the voice of the cameraman as Alan).

Mr. Homegrown said...

Strange to see the Dr. in a Kia. Will he ride a bike next time?

Unknown said...

Also, looks like they were parked in a Handicapped Parking Space

Yokota Fritz said...

It is a handicapped spot. Is the passenger in the Kia Dr. Thompson? Because he was carrying a white cane for the visually impaired.

And if he's visually impaired, what's he doing driving?

SoapBoxLA said...

Dr. Thompson was passenger in the back seat. The gentleman with the cane (blind) served on Defense Attorney Swarth's staff. As for the driver, she had a handicapped placard hanging from the rear-view mirror so perhaps she works with/for the blind lawyer.

Unknown said...

great coverage stephen. i'm glad you are doing this. really good info and update.