Share This Page

North Huntingdon man stops road rage trial to admit guilt

| Wednesday, April 9, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

It could have been a scene from an action movie, according to witnesses who described for a Westmoreland County jury a real-life road rage incident on Route 22 where a motorcyclist was nearly forced off the road by a Toyota Prius, then beaten by the driver.

After testimony from four witnesses, Craig Donald Woodward, 43, of North Huntingdon, cut short his assault trial and pleaded guilty to all four charges he faced.

Police said Woodward chased down Robert Vasos Jr. on his Harley Davidson motorcycle after he passed the Prius as the two pulled away from a traffic light near New Alexandria.

“There were four individual witnesses who had no biases who testified that certain things happened,” defense attorney Duke George said. “He pleaded guilty based on the advice of counsel and because it was in his best interest.”

Woodward pleaded guilty to a felony charge of aggravated assault, along with reckless endangerment, simple assault and reckless driving.

Assistant District Attorney Jim Lazar said he will seek jail time for Woodward when he is sentenced in about three months by Judge Richard E. McCormick Jr.

“He put a lot of people in danger,” Lazar said.

Vasos, a coal mine supervisor in West Virginia, testified he was driving to his Cambria County home on May 28, 2011, when his tranquil ride turned ugly after he pulled out in front of a silver Prius.

Vasos told jurors he flashed an obscene gesture toward the driver as the Prius sped ahead. The car pulled into his lane and forced the motorcycle towards the center jersey barrier. Vasos said he was able to pull away, only to be caught a mile or two down the road.

“I really didn't know where to escape,” Vasos testified.

The Prius pulled even with the bike farther along the highway and again forced Vasos toward the concrete barrier, then pulled ahead again and swerved back and forth across the road, according to witnesses.

The two vehicles eventually came to a stop when the Prius' driver used a metal club or a pipe to hit Vasos in the arm, witnesses said.

At the start of the trial, George told jurors that Vasos was the aggressor and that Woodward only acted after his life was threatened.

William Ellis, a pastor from Pittsburgh, told jurors he and his wife were on their way to a wedding in State College when they saw the incident.

“It looked like he was intentionally putting the motorcycle driver in danger,” Ellis said.

He told jurors that every time the motorcycle sped ahead to get away, the Prius accelerated to catch up.

“At that point I said I got to buy a Prius because it's got pretty good catch-up speed,” Ellis said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. He can bereached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.