State Attorney’s office drops case because of conflicting stories
By Angel Streeter
South Florida Sun Sentinel
6:11 p.m. EDT, September 22, 2009
BOCA RATON – The Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office won’t pursue charges against a bicyclist accused of attacking a motorist last month while other cyclists punched and kicked his car.
Boca Raton police arrested Thomas McDonald, 50, of Lighthouse Point, in August after an altercation ensued between the cyclists and Miles Barish, 69, of Delray Beach, on State Road A1A in Boca Raton.
Barish told police one cyclist reached into his 2008 Lexus convertible, grabbed him and threatened to beat him up. McDonald was arrested for simple assault and battery on a person older than 65. He also was charged with burglary.
The state attorney’s office decided not to pursue charges because there were too many conflicting statements about what happened, said Michael Edmondson, state attorney’s office spokesman.
Still, McDonald feels vindicated.
“I just want it to go away,” he said. “I want to clear my name and get to the point where people don’t think [cyclists are] wild and beating up on an old man.”
McDonald said he was on the tail end of a group ride on A1A on Aug. 13 when he came upon other cyclists in the group in a heated argument with Barish. Accusations were flying that Barish either hit or came too close to one of the cyclists, he said.
When McDonald stopped his bike in front of Barish’s car at Palmetto Park Road, Barish inched forward and hit his $10,000 bike, McDonald said.
“He knocked me over on my bike,” he said. “Cyclists yelled at him. Everyone was screaming at the top of their lungs. They thought he was going to hit me.”
When he went to talk to Barish, McDonald said the older man jumped out of his car and punched him in the jaw.
McDonald’s attorney, Jamie Benjamin, said he gathered numerous witness statements that backed up McDonald’s story and presented them to prosecutors.
“We’re pretty relieved justice is going to be served,” Benjamin said.
Barish, however, was disappointed to hear McDonald won’t be prosecuted. He said his car sustained $6,000 worth of damage and is still in the repair shop. He denies that he was the aggressor in the incident where more than 30 cyclists surrounded his car.
“Like I’m going to go out and pick on 30 guys half my age,” he said. “Of course, they’re going to say that. They’re sticking up for their friend.”
A handyman and avid cyclist who rides hundreds of miles a week, McDonald has seen bad behavior both on the part of cyclists and motorists. But this recent clash has been a wake-up call for cyclists, he said. Now, they are working on policing themselves, making sure everyone is following the rules of the road.
“We’ve got to work hard to co-exist,” he said. “We’re doing the right thing by staying out of everyone’s way. And [motorists] should give us a little slack.”