Oakmont road-rage suspect delays plea in first court appearance

  • Orthopedics nurse Casey Singer removes an IV from Toraj Soltani's arm in preparation for his discharge from Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital on Friday evening, August 17, 2012. Soltani suffered various injuries after being run down by a motorist while riding his bike in Oakmont on Thursday.

A lawyer for an 81-year-old Santa Rosa man charged with running down a bicyclist with his car raised the issue of mental competence Tuesday at the man's first court appearance.

Harry E. Smith is charged with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and hit and run in the alleged road rage incident Thursday that injured cyclist Toraj Soltani, 47, of Santa Rosa.

Wearing a blue jail uniform, the white-haired Smith shuffled before Judge Robert LaForge, who asked twice if Smith could hear him.

Smith said he could but postponed entering a plea at the direction of his lawyer, who said he needed more time to consider any evidence against him.

"I have some serious concerns about Mr. Smith's competence," his attorney, Charles Dresow, told the judge.

However, Dresow declined an offer to have the court's psychologist evaluate Smith. He said outside court that Smith has strong indications of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

"It's an issue that will have to be evaluated," Dresow said after the hearing.

Smith was ordered to return to court Aug. 31 to enter a plea.

He was arrested Saturday after a tip from another cyclist who said she had a similar run-in with him last fall.

In court Tuesday, LaForge said Smith was a suspect in two known road rage incidents in the past year and was guilty of reckless driving with alcohol in 2006.

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