Attempted murder charge for road-rage
The 82-year-old Oakmont resident accused of chasing and running down a bicyclist with his car on Aug. 15, has been charged with attempted murder and was taken back into custody under a $1 million bail after a court appearance Aug. 31.
Harold E. Smith had originally been charged with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon – his car – hit-and-run and driving on a suspended license, and had been released on $100,000 bail. He is suspected of attacking Santa Rosa resident Toraj Soltani, 47, who was riding on Pythian Road when Smith allegedly began to yell at him and then chased him with his car, ultimately following Soltani on to the Oakmont golf course for some 100 yards and knocking the cyclist to the ground.
Soltani, manager of a Santa Rosa delicatessen, suffered a broken wrist and severe scrapes and bruises. Santa Rosa police say Smith has been identified in two other road rage encounters with bicyclists, one of them involving Rose Zoia, a Santa Rosa attorney and cyclist who encountered Smith on Oct. 13, 2011, also while riding through Oakmont on Pythian Road.
Zoia told the Index-Tribune that while she was pedaling she became aware of a car behind her, and then a man began screaming at her.
“It was unforgettable,” she said. “He was screaming at me to ‘get the f*** out of here, you’re too young to be here.’”
Zoia said she was at a four-way stop when the face-to-face encounter occurred. “I went up to him and tried to talk reasonably to him,” but the driver continued yelling. So, Zoia said, she backed up, called 9–1–1 and then took down the license number of the car with her cell phone. “It was just an act of self-preservation. I thought he was going to hit me, and I still had to ride all the way through Oakmont.”
Zoia remembered the incident clearly when she read about the accident that injured Soltani. She called police and provided the license plate number that led to Smith.
In response to the attack for which Smith is charged, the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition announced Friday it will seek passage of what it has called, the “Vulnerable Road Users Protection Ordinance.”
The proposed law would create civil remedies for victims of harassment, who could recover damages, attorney’s fees and punitive damages.
Violators would be liable for triple the actual damages, or $1,000, whichever is greater, along with attorney’s fees and the cost of litigation.
The proposed ordinance is modeled after similar measures in adopted in Los Angeles, Sunnyvale and Washington, D.C.