Two bicyclists, embarking on a 60-mile road race training ride in the summer of 2015, ended up scraped and bruised in a ditch, their bikes damaged, after coming into contact with a car.
A Dane County jury will decide this week whether the driver of the car, John Dohm, was the cause of the collision, or whether something else happened.
Dohm, 63, of rural Oregon, is charged with two counts of second-degree reckless endangerment and two counts of reckless driving causing injury for the Aug. 26, 2015, incident on Fitchburg Road in Fitchburg in which the two cyclists, Maxwell Ackermann and Joseph Maloney, were injured.
The trial, which began Tuesday before Circuit Judge Nicholas McNamara, is scheduled to last until Thursday.
The case was first charged in December 2015 but was thrown out the next month by a judge who found no probable cause to support the charges against Dohm. Prosecutors appealed, and in March 2017 a state appeals court panel revived the case. In June 2017, another judge ruled there was probable cause for the case to proceed.
“This is an unfortunate accident that brings us here today, but there was no crime committed,” one of Dohm’s lawyers, Jessica Giesen, told jurors in her opening statement.
Giesen said that the two cyclists were impeding traffic and not sharing the road as they rode side-by-side in the middle of the road and did not immediately give way to Dohm when he tried to pass.
And when Dohm did pass them, Giesen said, they yelled at him and made obscene gestures. She said that Dohm pulled over ahead of them and asked them if they wanted to talk, but they kept going.
A short time later, she said, as Dohm passed them a second time, again after the cyclists were slow to get over, one of the cyclists swerved and hit his car, then swerved the other direction and hit the other cyclist, causing both to fall.
“He has no idea what happened,” Giesen said of Dohm.
But on the witness stand, Maloney told it differently. He said he and Ackermann were already riding as far to the right as they could go. When Dohm passed Maloney and Ackermann the first time, after Dohm honked his horn “aggressively,” Maloney said, he passed so close that Maloney felt “terrified.” Maloney said he waved his arms at Dohm and said Ackermann later told Maloney that he raised his middle finger at Dohm.
When Dohm stopped to talk to them, Maloney said, they went wide around him, not sure what Dohm’s intentions were. He said Dohm’s fists were clenched and his face was red in anger.
After passing him, they continued to ride side-by-side, Maloney said, and were about to ride single file when “all of a sudden an insurmountable force carried me in the air.” He said he had been struck by Dohm’s car.
He struck Ackermann in turn and they both went down, he said. Dohm stopped, he said, stood by and yelled at them, while Maloney called 911.
“Get off my road,” Maloney testified that Dohm said to them.
But on cross-examination, Charles Giesen, who is also representing Dohm, said that there’s nothing in police reports in which Maloney quotes Dohm as saying that. Maloney later said he didn’t believe that police took down everything he said or asked him about everything that happened.
Maloney said the crash left him with scrapes and bruises that kept him off his bike and away from training for more than a week. Charles Giesen, however, showed him a Facebook post from the next day showing Maloney on a bicycle training the Shorewood High School mountain bike team.
Charles Giesen also accused Maloney of pursuing criminal charges against Dohm to pave the way for a civil lawsuit, but Maloney said that while he has had contact with lawyers about the matter, no lawsuit has been filed and he doesn’t intend to file one.