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Court rejects appeal in Los Angeles road rage conviction

  • By Steve Frothingham
  • Published Jul. 28, 2011
  • Updated Jul. 28, 2011 at 10:45 AM EDT

A California appellate court has rejected an appeal by Christopher Thompson, the physician who was convicted in 2009 of assaulting two cyclists by intentionally stopping his car directly in front of them.

Thompson was sentenced to five years in prison with no probation. He also was ordered to pay the cyclists’ legal fees of $20,000 each.

In his appeal, Thompson said the trial court erred in allowing testimony about an earlier, similar incident in which another cyclist, Patrick Early, had an encounter with Thompson on the same road. Thompson said the testimony was unreliable, dissimilar from the incident he was charged with and prejudicial to his case. Thompson also claimed he was ineffectually represented at the trial, and challenged the trial court’s decision to not grant him probation and to pay the victims’ legal fees.

The appellate court rejected all of these claims.

It ruled that the trial court was correct in allowing testimony about the prior incident.

“Yes, there were some dissimilarities between the incident with Early and those involving the other victims,” the court noted. “Early was not riding side by side with another bicyclist. Defendant did not brake suddenly in front of Early, causing or nearly causing Early to hit defendant’s car.

“There were enough similarities, however, to give the Early incident probative value. As in the other two incidents, defendant drove up behind a bicyclist at a high rate of speed, honked and yelled at the bicyclist through the passenger side window. The evidence tended to show that defendant was angry at bicyclists riding on Mandeville Canyon Road and drove aggressively toward them. It tended to negate defendant’s testimony that he was gently trying to get bicyclists to obey traffic laws and did not drive in an aggressive manner toward them.”

The appeals court also upheld the decision to not grant Thompson probation, saying that in the assault Thompson “willfully inflicted great bodily injury,” one of the standards that must be met to deny probation.

Thompson did win one small battle: He calculated that he had served 68 days in custody prior to sentencing, when he was given credit for only 67. The appellate court ordered that his custody credit total be adjusted by one day.

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