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Witnesses testify about traffic jams caused by Hempfield cyclist

Rich Cholodofsky
| Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017, 1:24 p.m.
David Smith of Hempfield is led away from the Westmoreland County Courthouse on Sept. 9, 2016. (Trib photo)
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
David Smith of Hempfield is led away from the Westmoreland County Courthouse on Sept. 9, 2016. (Trib photo)

The prosecution rested its case Wednesday against a Hempfield bicyclist charged with obstructing traffic on county roadways.

Attorney Larry Burns said his client, David Smith, 58, is expected to testify Thursday. Burns said Smith will be the lone witness for the defense.

The prosecution's case against Smith featured 16 witnesses over two days, including police officers and motorists who testified they saw traffic repeatedly backup behind the bicyclist during eight separate incidents dating back to 2012.

Jurors on Wednesday saw first hand the lines of traffic that backed up behind Smith as he rode his bike in South Greensburg in 2013 and near the Hempfield and Unity border two years later.

Dash cam videos of those two incidents showed dozens of cars as they traveled at low speed behind Smith. At one point along Donohoe Road on July 6, 2015, the video shows Smith come to a complete stop in the middle of the eastbound lane as a police officer drives up along side.

"I couldn't pass safely," testified Richard Lorenz. "He stopped in the middle of the road and he appears to say to go around or you can follow me all the way to Latrobe, you (expletive.)"

In another incident, Dean Gerard, a retired state trooper, testified he encountered Smith on April 2, 2015, as he drove home on Donohoe Road.

Gerard told jurors he was behind Smith when he turned into a residential development. As he attempted to pass, Smith angled his bicycle, rode towards his car and struck the vehicle, Gerard said.

Smith claimed his bike was hit by Gerard's vehicle, then circled around the car three times before driving off, Gerard testified.

Gerard followed Smith as he rode in the opposite direction towards Greensburg, narrating the drive over his phone to state police as a dozen cars followed, he testified.

Francine Henkel, who testified she was in the line of traffic behind Gerard and Smith, said she saw the man on the bicycle nearly hit another driver who attempted to pass.

"Mr. Smith was not successful as he attempted to try to hit the car. He turned his wheel around to the car as it tried to pass," Henkel told jurors.

North Huntingdon police officer Kari Bauer said she stopped Smith on April 9, 2015, after she spotted him leading a line of traffic on Route 993 that stretched for about 15 vehicles.

"It was bumper-to-bumper traffic there. That is very unusual for that road. I've never seen a backup there in 28 years," Bauer testified.

Smith, who has been in jail for over a year as he awaited trial, has maintained he acted in accordance with the law that allows him to travel down the center of roads. Burns said he expects Smith to describe the rationale for his actions on the bike when the trial resumes before Common Pleas Court Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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