Prosecutor says Hempfield bicyclist accused of obstructing traffic may have financial motive
The bicyclist accused of obstructing traffic on roads throughout Westmoreland County might have had a financial motive to do so, an assistant district attorney said in court Monday.
Prosecutors are investigating the circumstances of a 2007 incident in which bicyclist David Smith was struck by a drunken driver and was paid a settlement for injuries he suffered, according to Assistant District Attorney Anthony Iannamorelli.
“We want to investigate that case as evidence to explain motive in the new cases,” Iannamorelli said during a hearing before Westmoreland County Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio.
The prosecution wants to consolidate nine cases against Smith, 56, of Hempfield, who since 2012 has been charged repeatedly with obstructing traffic by slowly riding his bicycle in the middle of roads. Eight of the charges are misdemeanors related to riding his bike in a way that traffic couldn’t pass him. The ninth charge is for allegedly threatening court staff with a rock during one of his hearings.
Defense attorney Larry Burns said the settlement Smith received was justified and has nothing to do with the ongoing cases. Burns also said that Smith violated no laws while riding his bicycle.
The defense attorney said motorists who don’t understand that they are allowed to pass a bike on the road are to blame for the traffic tie-ups that led to criminal charges against Smith.
Smith was jailed in July after another set of charges was filed against him while he awaited trial for similar incidents dating back to 2012.
Although Smith has been granted bond, he’s refused to leave the jail because of a condition imposed earlier this fall by Bilik-DeFazio that prevents him from riding his bicycle while he awaits trial.
The judge on Monday again offered to release Smith on bond, but Burns said his client has no driver’s license and no other means to get around if he is not allowed to ride his bike. Smith continues to reject his bond conditions and will stay in jail, Burns said.
The defense attorney objected to the request from the prosecution that all of Smith’s cases be tried together, again saying that his client had violated no laws.
“We’re not interested in a plea bargain,” Burns said.
Bilik-DeFazio said she will rule on pretrial motions after reviewing written legal arguments to be filed early next year by the attorneys.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or [email protected].