Oakmont man charged with attempted murder in cyclist road-rage assault
Published: Friday, August 31, 2012 at 10:31 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 31, 2012 at 2:43 p.m.
An Oakmont man accused of running down a bicyclist with his car was charged with attempted murder Friday and taken into custody with a bail increase to $1 million.
The more serious charge against Harry E. Smith, 82, came during his court appearance in the alleged Aug. 15 road-rage incident that injured cyclist Toraj Soltani, 47, of Santa Rosa.
Smith is suspected of chasing Soltani onto a golf course and knocking him off his bike after yelling at the bicyclist for taking his hands off the handlebars.
He had initially been charged with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, hit-and-run and driving while his license was suspended. He was out on $100,000 bail.
But after further investigation, prosecutors added the attempted murder charge and a count of threatening the victim, increasing the possible penalty for Smith to more than 12 years in prison.
“He is a danger to the community if he gets behind the wheel of a car,” prosecutor Barbara Nanney argued before Judge Robert LaForge.
Smith was arrested Aug. 18 after a tip from another cyclist who said she had a similar run-in with him last fall. Smith was a suspect in two road-rage incidents in the past year and was guilty of reckless driving with alcohol in 2006.
Smith's attorney, Charles Dresow, said the elderly Korean War veteran was being evaluated for dementia or Alzheimer's disease. He asked LaForge to allow Smith to remain free on electronic home confinement, arguing he was not a flight risk and his wife was in ill health.
But LaForge ordered Smith to be remanded into custody. The slight, white-haired man, who greeted the judge with “Good-morning, sir,” blinked as a deputy snapped handcuffs on him.
He will return to court Sept. 10 for an arraignment.
Bicycle advocates said outside court they were pleased with the additional charge. They rallied before the hearing to announce a proposed ordinance that would provide civil remedies to cyclists and pedestrians who are harassed by drivers.
“We're happy to see the judge taking this crime seriously,” said Sandra Lupien, a spokeswoman for the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition.
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