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Santa Rosa man who ran down cyclist sentenced to dementia facility

  • Harry E. Smith (PD FILE, 2013)

An 82-year-old Santa Rosa man who rammed a cyclist with his car after chasing him onto a golf course was sentenced Tuesday to spend the next five years in a secure facility specializing in dementia treatment.

Harry E. Smith will serve his time in the Clare Bridge program at The Lodge at Paulin Creek on Range Avenue in Santa Rosa instead of going to state prison for more than six and a half years.

Judge Ken Gnoss based his sentence on testimony from a doctor who said Smith was suffering frontotemporal dementia when he struck Toraj Soltani, 48, during the road-rage incident in the Oakmont retirement community on Aug. 15.

Gnoss also said Smith’s age and lack of a criminal record were factors. At the request of prosecutors, he ordered the Korean War veteran to wear an electronic ankle bracelet for the duration of his stay and said he can’t drive a car.

“Your conduct was very egregious to the court because in Sonoma County you have to cooperate and be careful of bicycles,” Gnoss said from the bench.

Smith, who listened through a court-supplied hearing device, promised to abide by the terms. He had already checked into the facility and appeared in court with family members at his side.

He left the courthouse without making a comment.

“It’s a fair and just result,” said his lawyer, Charles Dresow. “It’s the right place for Mr. Smith.”

A lawyer for the victim’s family agreed. Brendan Kunkle said the sentence was what Soltani and his family “expected and wished for.”

Prosecutor Barbara Nanney also said the sentence was “just.” She requested Smith be sent to prison if he violates the terms of his probation.

Soltani testified at a preliminary hearing that he was riding his bike on Pythian Road when Smith drove along side, yelled obscenities at him and bumped him with his car.

He responded by breaking Smith’s side mirror and a chase ensued. Smith pursued him onto the Oakmont golf course and ran into his rear tire, throwing Soltani from his bike.

Smith fled but was later arrested with the help of another cyclist who said she had a similar run-in with Smith.

In March, Smith pleaded guilty to two counts of assault with a deadly weapon causing great bodily injury, leaving the scene of a crash and driving on a suspended license.

Meanwhile, Soltani, a downtown Santa Rosa restaurant owner, sued Smith in civil court to recover about $140,000 in medical expenses. He suffered a serious wrist injury in the crash.

A settlement was reached for an undisclosed amount. Smith has paid about three-quarters of it and plans to pay the rest by November, his civil attorney, Thomas Kenney, said in court Tuesday.

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