Update on the Prosecution in the Road Rage Doctor Trial

laist_2.jpgRon Peterson, on July 4, 2008 Photo: LAist

DJ Wheels, an attorney who happens to be a bicycle rider, has been updating the folks at Midnight Ridazz on the ongoing case of the "Road Rage Doctor" as it is heard at the LAX Courthouse.  Wheels was gracious enough to summarize his posts on Monday and Tuesday’s hearings.  If you can’t get enough Dr. Road Rage, Ted Rogers has more at Biking In L.A.:

Ron Peterson was a great witness…calm, composed…said all the right
things when Swarth, the defense attorney, tried to corner him on cross exam. The presentation
of the pictures of his injuries and the blood on the back of Thompson’s
car was powerful stuff. They even brought in Ron’s broken Specialized
Tarmac. The damn head tube and fork were completely split off from the
top tube and down tube!

When pressed by Swarth on still being furious about the incident
and the injuries he suffered, Peterson calmly testified, "I just want
justice, that’s why I’m here."

On direct exam on Monday, Officer Rodriguez said that when he heard
Thompson say, "I wanted to teach them a lesson," he stopped
investigating it as an accidental traffic collision and called for
another patrol unit to investigate it as assault with a deadly weapon.

Tuesday on cross examination, Swarth was trying to establish that
Officer Rodriguez basically did a crappy investigation and jumped to
the conclusion that it was an intentional and deliberate act on the
part of Thompson based solely on his statement, "I wanted to teach them
a lesson."  Rodriguez is a veteran police officer and former Marine, so
he wasn’t cracking and repeated that it wasn’t up to him to follow up
and ask what Thompson meant by that statement because it was not
protocol. Another investigator would have to do that follow up.

Two doctors also testified yesterday. One who was actually at the
scene going home and stopped to help.   The other doctor was a plastic
surgeon who assessed Ron Peterson’s injuries a few days after the
incident. Not only did Peterson suffer lacerations to the face, but he
also had a broken nose as well as internal fractures to his nasal
passage.  Apparently, he still can’t feel his nose.

The last witness called yesterday was Patrick Watson, who had
reported a prior similar incident on Mandeville Canyon involving this
same vehicle and Thompson back in March 2008. He testified that he had
to bunny hop on to the curb twice to avoid getting hit by Thompson’s
vehicle. He also said that when another cyclist that was there yelled
at him to get out of the car and actually punched his car, Thompson
started to drive away and come right toward Watson, but then swerved
away and drove off.

Swarth is still cross examining Watson and will continue on
Thursday. (NOTE: Wednesday the courts are closed because of state-wide
furloughs.)

I dunno about Watson though. He looks sincere, but not as calm and
composed on the stand as Ron Peterson. Swarth is grilling him on stuff
he posted about the incident to his cycling club’s email list on Yahoo
Groups. Swarth is trying to point out inconsistencies and bias that are
pretty obvious in his email. The defense is probing into his state of
mind and feelings toward his incident and Thompson in order to suggest
that he has
a motive to lie and therefore not a credible witness. 

Swarth
will finish with Watson’s cross examination Thursday morning.  The
prosecution will then call the cyclist who was there with Watson during
the March 2008 incident, followed by another two detectives.  Friday
district attorney intends to call two expert witnesses. 

The defense may begin calling their first
witness on Friday if time and schedules permit.

  • Joe

    I do hope that Dr.Roadrage gets time in jail. But, I am glad that he is at least having to go through this huge ordeal and from now until then end of time when you google his name you will get this court case. And you cant escape google.

  • The guy will probably get clients for being “the guy who taught some Lance Armstrong wannabe’s a lesson”.

    It’s too bad that you have to this over-the-top insane to be prosecuted for hitting someone with a car.

  • KateNonymous

    I suspect that the most important thing Watson can do is testify that this has happened before. In other words, the doctor didn’t just have a bad day. He’s been trying to cause exactly this kind of accident for quite some time. Until I read the Velonews coverage, I hadn’t realized that this was in fact the third incident of this nature. That’s a pattern, and hopefully that means something to the jury.

  • Ed M.

    Thanks for keeping us updated on this.

  • I recall participating in a running argument about biking on Craigslist in spring of 2008, before I realized I was wasting whatever limited time I have on this Earth.

    One of the angriest anti-bikers swore if any cyclists got in his way, he’d run ’em off the road — and said he’d done it before and gotten away with it. Ever since I’ve heard about the two other cases Thompson is suspected of, I’ve wondered if he was the jerk I’d argued with. But it would be just about impossible to track down the author of an anonymous post from 18+/- months ago.

    I thought for awhile that this was the cycling community’s equivalent of the Rodney King case — that an acquittal would result in thousands of cyclists rising up, albeit less violently, and demanding justice on our streets. But like with Ron Peterson himself, the level of anger among most cyclists seems to have died down to a dispassionate desire for justice.

  • Thanks for the updates. I don’t know if we’re dispassionate about this just yet. I think we’re just waiting for the wheels of the justice system to turn. I think, at the VERY least, Dr. Road Rage should have his driver’s license forever revoked. I’m in favor of jail time, but I prefer a massive amount of embarrasing revenge instead. Like, he has to do community service volunteering at a bicycle center for the next 10 years. Or is required to train and cycle a tour or something. I know what he did was criminal and deserves a criminal punishment, but isn’t there some kind of devilshly clever torturous sentence that could be imposed? Let the punishment fit the crime, right?

  • Rob. K

    As a motorcyclist of 17 years, and a resident of Santa Monica, CA, I have to admit when I’m driving my car I am extra careful when it comes down to motorcyclists and bicyclists. However, I also must admit that a large amount of bicyclists I’ve observed (at least in LA) are horribly rude and start stuff all the time with cars. I’m not personally a violent person, nor would I ever intentionally hurt someone, but even I have had instances where I’ll have a near miss with a bicyclist and want to “teach them a lesson.”

    It becomes frustrating when the bicyclists purposely prevent cars from passing, etc. We are supposed to share the road, but I sometimes see these guys acting like they are elite and they are going to teach the car “a lesson.” Well, physics doesn’t work like that and I think my 4200 lb. Crown Victoria will win if challenged by a 140 pound hot headed jerk on a bike.

    In no way do I condone how this doctor handled himself, but I must admit I can see exactly how this went down. They BOTH behaved badly and the Infinity won. It’s crazy that people are putting all the blame on the doctor and overlooking the behaviors of these bicyclists.

  • Brent

    @Rob K.:

    The doctor and cyclists may both have behaved badly, but only the doctor behaved criminally, or at least allegedly so. So, yes, the doctor deserves the blame; his actions were beyond the pale.

    As you mention, cars have a weight advantage. This advantage does not give their drivers the license to bully or intimidate; if anything, drivers should use their power with care and conscience.

    You seem like a reasonable guy. I think it’s really hard to understand the cyclist’s perspective without spending some time on a bicycle. I might recommend taking a ride from, say, Santa Monica to Century City and back, just to get the flavor of the street. When you get passed a few times by that Crown Victoria with inches to spare, you may develop a different sense of what it means to share the road.

  • Rob K.

    @Brent. I gave this some thought last night and considered your comment. My father rides bikes with my stepmom. If this would have happened to my dad I would be sitting in the LA County jail on arson & murder charges. You’re right, the doctor used the car as a weapon and getting the “bird” flipped at you does not justify the use of a deadly weapon.

    If the doctor pulled over, got out and kicked the guy’s ass I’d be cool with it – a fight, fair and square, but you are absolutely correct – the car being used as a weapon is outrageous and completely changes the dynamic of the situation. This could have been my father, a friend, my brother, or myself and thinking of it that way instantly makes me empathize with the rider, his loved ones and the fact he could have easily have been killed.

  • Here’s an app that lets you vent your road rage and rate bad drivers online http://www.driver-ratings.com

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