Two men who may have played a role in the road rage attack surrendered to authorities on Friday. Brynn Gingras reports.
A motorcyclist accused of smashing a window and starting a bloody encounter between a group of bikers and an SUV driver was arraigned Sunday on gang assault and other major charges, which his lawyer said were overblown.
Reginald Chance, 37, allegedly used his helmet to smash through the SUV's front window before the driver was pulled from the vehicle and assaulted.
There is no evidence Chance hit the driver, but Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Samantha Turino said he set in motion the events that led to the beating. Prosecutors say Chance broke the motorist's window, allowing the other riders to drag him into the street.
Chance's lawyer said the gang assault charge is excessive because his client did not actually assault the driver.
"My client obviously overreacted in smashing the window, but beyond that he was not a participant in any assault on the victim," his lawyer, Gregory Watts, said. A judge set Chance's bail at $100,000.
The confrontation, which was caught on video, occurred after several bikers stopped a Range Rover SUV on a highway, attacked the vehicle, then chased the driver and pulled him from the car after he plowed over a motorcyclist while trying to escape. The driver, Alexian Lien, needed stitches after being pummeled by the bikers.
At a press conference Sunday, a man who intervened in the beating of the driver said he "felt intense danger" as he protected Lien.
Sergio Consuegra said he had been on his way to church on Sept. 29 when he saw an SUV stop on 178th Street in Manhattan and a group of motorcyclists approach.
Consuegra said the riders started hitting the car, and that one of them tried to grab Lien's wife, who was in the car along with their child.
"She was kind of making some sounds," he said. "I saw a baby inside; she had the baby in her arms, I guess she was protecting the baby from all the glass that was flying inside and outside."
Lien was on the ground when Consuegra stepped in between him and the bikers.
"There was more coming, and they feel like they wanted to keep hurting the man -- and I felt intense danger at that moment, at that time, and I say to myself, 'Let me not show these people that I'm here to engage in any kind of confrontation but that I'm here to protect the man and the family, so I'm going to keep it cool.' That's what I was thinking," Consuegra said.
Lien will not face charges, law enforcement officials said. He has been cooperating with investigators and is expected to testify before a grand jury in the coming week. Lien's wife, who was in the car with their daughter at the time of the attack, said in a statement last week they feared for their lives as they drove off.
The motorcyclist who was crushed by the SUV, Edwin Mieses Jr., of Lawrence, Mass., suffered a broken spine and two broken legs and may never walk again, his family said.
Mieses' family held a news conference Friday with their lawyer in which they said that he wasn't doing anything wrong when he was struck by Lien's SUV. They acknowledged that Mieses had stopped his bike in front of the family's vehicle but said he was trying to get the other riders to leave the family alone when he was hit.
Robert Sims, 35, of Brooklyn, was arraigned Saturday in Manhattan on charges of first-degree gang assault, first-degree assault and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon. Bail was set at $100,000. A criminal complaint notes video shows Sims was among five to six motorcyclists who attacked Lien after he was dragged out of the car, and says Sims stomped Lien in the head and body.
An attorney for the 35-year-old Sims did not immediately return a call for comment. He is the third person to face formal charges in connection with the attack, though the case against one of those motorcyclists was subsequently dismissed when prosecutors said they needed more time to investigate.
On Sunday night investigators released a photo, shown below, of a new person of interest interest in the case. Anyone with information about the man is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477).