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California road-rage case heads for court

VeloNews: California road-rage case heads for court

By Patrick Brady

Published: Oct. 12, 2009

A California emergency-room physician faces trial this week on multiple felony charges stemming from a 2008 road-rage case that left two cyclists seriously injured.

Dr. Christopher T. Thompson allegedly braked suddenly in front of Ron Peterson and Christian Stoehr after he and Peterson exchanged words as they descended Mandeville Canyon Road on July 4, 2008.

The road, a two-lane, dead-end street in the Los Angeles suburb of Brentwood, is a popular destination for local cyclists who want a climb with relatively little traffic.

Peterson and Stoehr had taken part in a Fourth of July group ride and were descending behind the rest of the group after assisting another cyclist who had fallen and waiting for paramedics to arrive.

Thompson, an ER physician and owner of a medical-records company who lives on Mandeville Canyon Road, is said to have approached the duo at speed in a late-model burgundy Infiniti sedan and honked at them before pulling alongside and telling them to ride single file. After a brief exchange of words, the cyclists say, Thompson pulled ahead of them and then stopped short.

Stoehr hit the back of the car and vaulted into the oncoming traffic lane. His injuries included a grade-three shoulder separation and road rash. Peterson went through the rear window of the car; the impact broke his nose, nearly severing it from his face, and shattered several of his teeth. More than 90 stitches were required to reattach his nose.

Thompson was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon; he was later released on $30,000 bail. In December 2008, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Amy. D. Hogue ordered that Thompson stand trial after a preliminary hearing in which Los Angeles police Officer Robert Rodriguez testified that Thompson complained that cyclists frequently traveled the canyon road and that he was “tired of them.” Thompson allegedly also told police that he stopped in front of the cyclists to “teach them a lesson.”

Also testifying were two other cyclists who claimed to have had an earlier run-in with the doctor on Mandeville Canyon Road. Patrick Watson and Josh Crosby say they were descending the road in March 2008 when a motorist sped ahead of them and hit his brakes. Watson bunny-hopped a curb and rode onto a lawn while Crosby dodged into oncoming traffic.

Watson says the motorist made a second attempt to hit them and then sped away. He used his cell phone to record the vehicle’s vanity plate, TCH MDX; that plate was also on the back of a burgundy Infiniti driven by Thompson in the July 4 incident involving Peterson and Stoehr. Thompson’s medical records company is called Touch Medix.

The Los Angeles Police Department investigated the March incident, but Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley declined to file charges against Thompson, saying the case wasn’t “a winner.” Since then, the case against Thompson has been amended to include a single count of misdemeanor reckless driving causing injury, reflecting the allegations made by Watson and Crosby.

Thompson pleaded not guilty to the charges against him on January 15. Final pre-trial motions will take place on Tuesday. A jury is to be selected on Wednesday, with opening arguments scheduled for Thursday.