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Judge denies change of venue in Oakmont road-rage case

A Sonoma County judge Thursday rejected a bid to move a high-profile road rage case involving a car and a bicycle to another county, saying the defendant could get a fair trial.

Harry E. Smith, 82, of Santa Rosa is charged with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and hit-and-run driving in an Aug. 16 crash that injured Toraj Soltani, 48, also of Santa Rosa.

Prosecutors allege Smith drove onto the fairway at an Oakmont golf course and hit Soltani, who was riding his bike.

Smith's lawyer, Charles Dresow, argued publicity about the case as well as a recent outcry over bicycle safety has tainted the jury pool.

But Judge Ken Gnoss said news coverage was not excessive. He said Smith could show no evidence, such as a public opinion poll, of any widespread bias.

He set the trial for April 19.


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