Plea in Oakmont ‘car as deadly weapon’ case

Harry Edward Smith, 82, has pled no contest to using his vehicle as deadly weapon to run down a bicyclist, then flee the scene, during an August 16 confrontation in Oakmont.

The Santa Rosa man faces up to 8 years, 8 months in prison. He will be sentenced on May 3.

The victim, Toraj Soltani, 48, of Santa Rosa, was riding his bicycle on Pythian Road about 5 p.m. He was stretching his back with his hands off the handlebars when Smith drove up next to him and began yelling at him to put his hands back on the handlebars.

Smith then bumped his car into Soltani, who responded by hitting Smith’s side mirror. Soltani then rode away, onto the sidewalk and down Oak Trail Drive to get away from the defendant. Smith pursued Soltani around the Oakmont neighborhood, continuing to yell at him. Soltani finally rode his bike onto the cart path near the eighth fairway of the Oakmont Golf Course, when he suddenly heard a car accelerating behind him.

Smith accelerated his car and struck Soltani from behind, throwing him off his bike and in the air. Soltani suffered a fractured left wrist, a lacerated tendon and numerous cuts and abrasions.

Smith made a right hand turn across the golf course, and fled on Pythian Road.

A bicyclist who had a similar prior encounter with Smith provided a tip that led to his arrest. Rose Zoia, of Santa Rosa, told police that she had been riding her bicycle on Pythian Road several months earlier when an elderly white male drove next to her and began yelling at her. She had taken down the man’s license number and was able to provide it to police.

Smith pled no contest to two felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon, admitted a sentencing enhancement that he’d caused great bodily injury, pled to an additional felony count of hit and run causing injury, and admitted the misdemeanor charge of driving on a suspended license. The charge of attempted murder and making criminal threats will be dismissed at sentencing.

“This outcome addresses the seriousness of Mr. Smith’s conduct and achieves justice,” District Attorney Ravitch said. “We arrived at this decision after discussion with the victim, as well as a careful consideration of the facts and evaluation of expert reports regarding the defendant’s mental condition and how those opinions affected our ability to prove elements of the charged crimes.”

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