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Cyclist testifies in car-versus-bike case

The driver accused in a Brentwood assault case once forced him off the road, witness says.

October 24, 2009|Jack Leonard

A cyclist testified Friday that he was run off the road by a physician seven months before the doctor allegedly injured two other cyclists on the same Brentwood street when he slammed on the brakes of his car in front of them.

Patrick Early, an advertising consultant, said he was riding up Mandeville Canyon Road when a speeding red Infiniti honked aggressively and passed inches from his bicycle, forcing him into a gutter. Early identified Dr. Christopher Thompson in court as the driver and accused him of shouting a profanity and telling him to get off the road.

"He was extremely angry. He was raging at me," Early told a jury in the airport branch of L.A. County Superior Court. "I was extremely frightened and upset."

Early testified as prosecutors wrapped up their weeklong case against Thompson, 60. The doctor is charged with assault with a deadly weapon, reckless driving and other crimes in connection with two other incidents in which prosecutors say he tried to hurt cyclists on the same road.

Thompson, who sat quietly, wearing a dark pin-striped suit, has pleaded not guilty.

Earlier this week, two cyclists told jurors that Thompson drove the same luxury car at them in March 2008 as they rode down the residential street, where the doctor lived at the time. They said Thompson slammed on his brakes in front of them but that they narrowly avoided a collision.

Two other cyclists testified that they were seriously injured on July 4, 2008; they said Thompson swerved in front of them and hit his brakes hard, propelling one cyclist through the car's rear windshield and sending the other sprawling to the ground. A Los Angeles police officer testified that Thompson told him soon after the collision that the cyclists were not riding single file and that he had acted to "teach them a lesson."

The incidents have outraged cyclists and underscored tension between them and motorists on the Brentwood road, a popular route for cyclists.

Defense attorney Peter Swarth, who described the July 2008 collision as an accident, questioned how the cyclists could tell that the doctor's actions were deliberate.

On Friday, he also questioned how Early, an artist and car enthusiast who has worked on advertising projects for Honda and Chevrolet, could recall minute details about the motorist and his car but could not recall when the incident occurred. Early said he was unsure of the exact date but believed the episode took place in late December 2007 or early January 2008.

Early said he did not notify police at the time but contacted the district attorney's office after reading about Thompson's July 2008 arrest.

The defense portion of the trial is scheduled to begin Monday.

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jack.leonard@latimes.com

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