By Geoff Cunningham Jr.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
PORTSMOUTH — A photo of a bicyclist kneeling on the windshield of a convertible clutching a large rock was front and center during the Tuesday trial of a Rye man accused of taking matters into his own hands following a brush with a motorist on Route 1A.
The 67-year-old victim testified in Portsmouth District Court that he feared for his life when an angry Duane Foster allegedly jumped on his hood with a “boulder” raised above his head following a clash between the motorist and a group of cyclists.
Foster, 43, of 2 Foyes Road is facing three charges relating to a Sept. 9 incident during which he and other riders in a group were alleged to have been nearly struck by the driver of a red Chevrolet Corvette on Route 1A in Rye.
Witnesses say the bicyclists and drivers exchanged gestures, but authorities say Foster took it a step further when he rode down a shortcut, cut the motorist off, placed his bike in the road to stop the vehicle and proceeded to jump on the hood and threaten the driver with a large rock.
Foster is charged with Class A misdemeanor counts of criminal threatening (use of a deadly weapon) and criminal mischief as he is alleged to have used the rock to scratch the hood of the 2003 Corvette.
He is also charged with violation-level disorderly conduct.
The victim in the case testified he had a couple alcoholic drinks on the day he encountered the bicycle riders on a narrow portion of Route 1A.
The victim was originally charged with reckless operation, but he testified that charge was reduced to a lane violation.
Stephen Jeffco, the attorney representing Foster, made a case that the driver of the vehicle endangered the lives of the bicyclists.
He asked witnesses to confirm reports the convertible’s driver blasted the horn, drove past the cyclists and then slammed on the brakes sending some veering into parked cars and others into oncoming traffic.
On witness who called 911 testified he looked in his rear-view mirror to see the Corvette braking hard and bicyclists scattering.
Foster and another rider broke away from the pack and took a shortcut that allowed them to get in front of the car’s driver.
The victim testified he was frightened when he was stopped by Foster and other bicyclists in the group converged on the scene.
“They wanted the keys to my car … I was trying to leave. I had a man over my head with a large boulder,” the victim testified.
The victim said Foster’s actions resulted in roughly $824 in damage to his car.
Jeffco asked the driver if he was concerned that he had been drinking and the bicyclists were trying stop him so that police could arrive.
The defense attorney asked why he was attempting to drive away after the bikers stopped him.
“I was trying to do everything to protect my life,” the victim responded.
Terri Golter — an EMT with the New Castle Fire Department — said she arrived on the scene to find “disarray” with angry bikers shouting at the driver and a visibly upset victim still sitting in the car with a bicyclist on the hood.
When Rye prosecutor Robert Ducharme asked her to characterize the scene she said it appeared chaotic and like a “riot.”
She testified she initially thought someone had been struck, but quickly understood there had been an altercation on the road.
Golter snapped photos of a bicyclist kneeling on the hood of the car with a large rock in his hand and the driver below.
The man appeared to be laying on the windshield and reaching over.
Ducharme had the large rock admitted into evidence and plunked it down on the witness stand as he questioned a police officer.
Kevin Tonkin — a member of the riding group — testified he and Foster were simply trying to get the driver to turn over his keys so he wouldn’t leave until police arrived. He said they feared for other motorists because the driver was operating in an unsafe manner and smelled of alcohol when they stopped him.
Rye Police did conduct a field sobriety test on the driver of the vehicle, but he was not arrested for driving while intoxicated and was allowed to leave the scene with a family member who picked him up.
Tuesday’s trial was cut short when court closed at 4 p.m.
The prosecution has rested its case with Jeffco only calling on two witnesses before the case was continued to a yet-to-be-scheduled date.