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Westmoreland

Hempfield bicyclist files appeal in traffic jam case

Rich Cholodofsky
| Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, 5:03 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)

A Hempfield bicyclist who served 20 months in jail for obstructing traffic on area roadways appealed his convictions Monday, claiming the judge was biased and did not understand the law.

David Smith, 58, was paroled Nov. 13 from Westmoreland County Prison after he served nearly two years behind bars as he contested eight criminal cases dating back to 2012 in which he was accused of purposely tying up traffic and in several instances was abusive to motorists.

Smith was convicted following a week-long trial in August of nine misdemeanor offenses in six of the cases and was sentenced by Common Pleas Court Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio to time served. The judge said she would parole Smith after he underwent a mental health evaluation at the jail.

As part of his sentence, Smith is barred from riding his bicycle on public roads during his parole period, which is to run another three months, and a two-year probation term to follow.

Throughout his prosecution and during trial, Smith maintained that only he properly understood traffic laws that he claimed allowed him to ride down the middle of roadways and permitted cars to pass him rather than stack up from behind.

Defense attorney Larry Burns made that same argument in the appeal and claimed that Bilik-DeFazio's court rulings during the trial were biased against Smith.

“The entire proceeding of the prosecution, the decisions and rulings on all the cases above were tainted and prejudiced by the views held by the court in the prosecution in that the new statutes were not recognized as providing for relief from any congestion on the highway due to pedal cycles,” Burns wrote.

As part of the appeal, Burns said Smith was entitled to a directed verdict of acquittal but also asked for a new trial and that Bilik-DeFazio be removed from the case.

Bilik-DeFazio will decide the appeal.

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

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