Jury convicts Westmoreland bicyclist for traffic snarls
Hempfield bicyclist David Smith will remain behind bars for at least three more months as he awaits sentencing after being convicted Friday of repeatedly obstructing traffic on county roads.
A Westmoreland County jury took more than three hours to convict Smith on nine misdemeanor counts in six of eight cases dating back to 2012. Jurors acquitted him of charges stemming from a case in 2013 in South Greensburg and another from Hempfield in 2015.
During his four-day trial, the prosecution claimed Smith intentionally set out to delay traffic as he rode his bicycle down the center of local roads. Jurors found Smith guilty of charges that included obstructing highways, disorderly conduct and criminal mischief.
Smith, 58, has been in jail for more than a year after his bail was revoked when he admitted he violated a court order that prohibited him from riding his bicycle on county roads. Common Pleas Court Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio said that because Smith has refused to undergo a mental health evaluation he will stay incarcerated until he is sentenced in about three months.
Assistant District Attorney Anthony Iannamorelli said that as a result of the convictions, Smith could be sentenced to serve up to nine years in prison, but most of the misdemeanor offenses for which he was found guilty are likely to result in just a few months behind bars.
Iannamorelli said he may ask that Smith's jail stay be extended beyond the year he has already served but hasn't determined what length a sentence he will ask to be imposed.
In addition to the misdemeanors, Bilik-DeFazio found Smith guilty of five additional summary traffic-related citations.
Defense attorney Larry Burns said Smith will appeal.
During the trial, the prosecution said Smith was intent on disrupting traffic and controlling the roads while riding his bicycle.
“Mr. Smith thinks he's famous. He thinks he has paparazzi following him,” Iannamorelli told jurors during closing arguments.
When traffic did back up behind the bicycle, Smith became angry and abusive to motorists, hitting one woman's car in South Greensburg and another driver's vehicle in Unity, Iannamorelli said. He cut off drivers and attempted to use his bike to hit vehicles, he said.
“It was to preen his false intelligence and his false reading of the law. Mr. Smith was using the road as his false protest against the law,” Iannamorelli argued.
Burns argued that Smith's actions were within the law and that it was motorists who were at fault for failing to safely pass the bicyclist. Burns told jurors Smith was targeted by police.
“The theme of this is if any cars come up behind him he has to be arrested. He was on the highway legally. A person's choice to ride a bicycle is not up to the DA,” Burns said.
Burns told jurors that his client was not guilty and suggested that it was a sin to convict an innocent man.
“Mr. Iannamorelli is going to try to make sinners of you,” Burns said.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or email@example.com.