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A Santa Rosa man was held over for trial this morning for the road rage attempted murder of bicyclist he allegedly pursued in his car onto a golf course in August. After a preliminary hearing in Sonoma County Superior Court, Harry Edward Smith, 82, was ordered to stand trial on charges of attempted murder, hit-and-run, assault with a deadly weapon, making criminal threats and driving on a suspended license. Toraj Soltani, 47, testified he was sitting upright while riding his bicycle on Pythian Road without his hands on the handlebars to give his back a rest around 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 16.
Smith pulled his Toyota sedan along side his bicycle and said, “Get your hands on the handlebars you mother——,” Soltani said. “He said, ‘Get out of Oakmont you son of a bitch, you don’t belong here.’ Then he veered into me and struck my left thigh,” Soltani said. Soltani testified he became angry and punched the passenger side mirror of Smith’s Toyota twice with his fist. The Toyota was about 12 inches away, when Smith said, ‘You damaged my vehicle. I’m going to get you. I’m going to kill you,’ Soltani said. Smith took out his cell phone and said he was going to call the police, Soltani said. Soltani said he then rode his bike on the sidewalk and turned left on Oak Leaf Drive but Smith followed him.
Soltani said he then rode his bike back to Pythian Road and down the cart path at the Oakmont Golf Course to escape the Toyota. “I didn’t look back. I thought I was safe,” Soltani said. Soltani said he rode about 100 yards when he heard an engine accelerating before the Toyota struck the rear of his bike. “It’s kind of a blur. I went up in the air and the car plowed through me and I went to the ground. I tried to break my fall with my left hand,” Soltani said. The Toyota made a U-turn on the fairway, stopped briefly and sped away, Soltani said. “I was walking around in a daze,” Soltani said. Soltani suffered a fractured wrist and lacerated tendon but he said was able to call 911. During questioning by defense attorney Charles Dresow, Soltani admitted he lost his temper. “I said. ‘Get the hell away from me’ after I hit the mirror,” Soltani said.
Deputy District Attorney Barbara Nanney asked Judge Kenneth Gnoss to hold Smith over for trial on all the charges. “This is a man who was in such a rage because a bicyclist was riding without his hands on the bars. He was in a rage from the beginning,” Nanney said. Smith threatened to kill Soltani and drove onto the gold course to carry out the threat, Nanney said. He also committed two separate assaults on Soltani, Nanney said. Dresow argued against the attempted murder charge. “There is no evidence he intended to take a human life,” Dresow said.
Dresow also argued Soltani did not tell a Santa Rosa police officer during an interview in the hospital the day of the collision that Smith threatened to kill him. Dresow said Soltani told a friend who works in the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office about the threats nearly two weeks after the incident. “Words themselves are not evidence,” Dresow said. Smith, who is out of custody, will re-enter pleas to the charges on Nov. 20.
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