On Thursday, August 16th, Oakmont resident Harry E. Smith purposefully chased down -- going off the roadway and onto a golf course -- and then ran down Santa Rosa bicyclist Toraj Soltani. Smith fled the scene, and was arrested later thanks to a tip from another bicyclist who reports having had a "similar run-in" with Smith last fall. Thankfully -- and remarkably -- Soltani, who runs Mac's Deli in Downtown Santa Rosa, suffered relatively minor injuries -- a fractured wrist and road rash; undoubtedly, though, the avid cyclist was shaken by Smith's act of violence against him.
According to The Press Democrat, Smith is "a suspect in two known road rage incidents in the past year and was guilty of reckless driving with alcohol in 2006." In the incident with Soltani, Smith is charged with 3 felonies: 2 counts of assault with a deadly weapon, and hit and run. He is also charged with driving with a suspended license.
March 29th, 2013 Update
Harry Smith, the man who harassed, chased, and ran over Toraj Soltani has taken a plea deal. He'll be sentenced on May 3. http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20130329/ARTICLES/130329452/1350?p=1&tc=pg. We hope that passing anti-harassment ordinances like the Vulnerable User Protection Ordinance, our communities can help prevent horrible incidents like this from taking place at all.
December 7th, 2012 Update
Harry Smith has requested that his trial be moved out of Sonoma County. District Attorney Jill Ravitch says her office will oppose a change of venue. Read the Press Democrat coverage.
November 26, 2012 Update
The follwoing court dates apply to the Harry Smith case:
December 6th at 8:30 a.m. Courtroom 3 -- Filing of Motion
December 6th at 9:00 a.m. Courtroom 13 -- Filing of Motion
January 18, 2013 at 9:00 a.m. Courtroom 3 -- Pretrial Confirmation
February 1, 2013 at 9:00 a.m. Courtroom 3 -- Jury Trial
November 8, 2012 Update: Harry Smith's Preliminary Hearing
Harry Smith appeared in court today for a preliminary hearing in connection with his alleged August 16, 2012 assault and harassment of Toraj Soltani, who was riding his bike in Oakmont.
Soltani testified before Judge Kenneth J. Gnoss in Sonoma County Superior Courtroom 3. He was examined by both the prosecution and the defense; the following is a summary of his testimony.
On August 16th, Soltani went for an after-work bike ride from Santa Rosa, over Trinity Road in Sonoma Valley, traveling through Oakmont on his ride home. While riding on Pythian Road, he removed his hands from the handlebars in order to stretch his back. At that time, a sedan pulled up beside Soltani, driven by a man he identified as Harry Smith; Smith began cursing at Soltani, apparently incensed that Soltani was riding with his hands off the handlebars. Smith continued to harass Soltani, driving beside him along Pythian Road, with only about a foot between the passenger side of the car and Soltani’s body. As the two approached Oakmont Drive, Soltani says Smith swerved his car to the right, running into Soltani’s left thigh. Soltani did not fall, and after regaining his balance, he says he twice punched Smith’s passenger side review mirror, causing it to break, and told Smith to “Get the hell away from me.”
Soltani says Smith pursued him, shouting “Stay out of Oakmont.” In order to escape, Soltani hopped the curb to ride on the sidewalk before turning onto Oakleaf Drive. Smith pursued. Soltani made a U-turn to get back onto Pythian, and realized that Smith had turned, too, and was pursuing him. In order to escape, Soltani turned onto the cart path at Oakmont golf course.
Soltani says that for about 10-15 seconds he felt relieved, thinking he was safe; then, he heard an engine rev behind him, and realized Smith had followed him onto the golf course. Before he had time to think, the front of Smith’s car hit his back tire, launching Soltani off his bike; he says he landed in front of the hood of Smith’s car, on the concrete. Soltani remembers landing on the left side of his body, attempting to brace his fall with his left hand.
After the crash, Soltani says Smith stopped his car briefly before making an abrupt U-turn, almost running over Soltani, and fleeing the scene. No words were exchanged, says Soltani.
Soltani testifies to remembering that at times throughout the incident, Smith made the following threats against Soltani: “I’m gonna get you.” “I’m gonna kill you.” “I’m gonna call the police.”
Soltani says that after Smith fled, he walked on the golf course turf a daze, and noticed that his left wrist was in severe pain (10 on a scale of 1-10). He saw that his hand was “dangling freely,” and that while he could move his fingers and feel sensation in them, he had no ability to move his hand. He saw that there was a lot of blood and a tendon sticking out of a hole in his arm. He also had a significant amount of road rash on his left side and a “hematoma about the size of a tennis ball” on his left buttock. He did not lose consciousness at any time.
In the week following the attack, Soltani had two surgeries to repair his left wrist.
Santa Rosa police officer, Michael Spediacci, who was dispatched to the scene of the August 16th crash, also testified today. Spediacci’s testimony included a report from an eyewitness who saw the incident at the golf course; the witness’s report is consistent with Soltani’s testimony.
Smith is charged with 6 criminal counts including first degree attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon (felony), felony hit & run, assault with a deadly weapon (misdemeanor), threat to intimidate or terrorize (felony), and driving with a suspended license (misdemeanor).
Judge Gnoss felt there was sufficient evidence to support each charge, and upheld all of them. The case will be back in court on November 20th.
August 31st Update
Last week, Smith appeared in court to face two felony charges of assault with a deadly weapon and a misdemeanor charge of driving with a suspended license. At the time, he requested to delay entering a plea, pending mental evaluation. Judge LaForge granted the request, and set his bail at $100,000; he ordered Smith to return to court on August 31st to enter a plea. Smith posted bail following last week's hearing.
Smith returned to court, as ordered, today, where he faced charges amended by the District Attorney to attempted murder. The People also requested that Smith's bail be set at $1M, the statutory level for attempted murder.
Smith's attorney argued against the $1M bail, on the basis that Smith is elderly, in poor health, not a flight risk, and has a wife in ill health. Judge LaForge refused to reduce the bail, and sent Smith back into custody, ordering him to appear in Court (Department 3) for arraignment at 8:30 a.m. on September 10th.
August 21st update
Harry Smith appeared in court for arraignment today. His attorney suggested that mental competence may be an issue in Smith's case. Smith postponed entering a plea. Judge LaForge refused to reduce Smith's $100,000 bail, and ordered him to return to court to enter a plea on August 31st at 8:30 in Department 9 after being evaluated for competency.
August 22nd update
Harry Smith has posted $100,000 bail and is out of jail. Read The Press Democrat coverage.