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Judge takes previous character into account in suspending most of sentence

A former firefighter who shot a cyclist, the bullet missing his head by a fraction of an inch as it passed through his helmet, is set to spend just four months in jail after being sentenced for assault by a court in North Carolina.

As previously reported on road.cc, prosecutors had pressed for 42-year-old Charles Alexander Diez to be charged with attempted first degree murder after he shot cyclist Alan Simons. But a Grand Jury in the town of Asheville, where the incident took place, rejected their argument and he was charged with the lesser offence of felony assault instead.

The shooting took after Diez remonstrated with Mr Simons about the danger of cycling on a busy road with his four-year-old son on a seat on the back of the bike. Mr Simons’ wife was present on a separate bicycle. Diez claimed that he fired the shot as a warning to Mr Simons, whom he said was ignoring him, although the fact the bullet hit the cyclist’s helmet might suggest he took deliberate aim.

Reporting on the case, the Citizen-Times said that Superior Court Judge James Downs had handed Diez a 15-27 month prison sentence, with all except the first four months suspended for 30 months. Should he break the law during that period, the full custodial sentence could be imposed. He was also ordered to attend an anger management course, and to pay Mr Simons $1,200 to cover medical costs arising from damage to his eardrum.

Mitigating factors such as Diez’s military record and his service as a fireman, plus his lack of a previous criminal record, helped reduce the sentence, but Mr Simons and his wife were disappointed at the court’s leniency.

“We think the sentence is light, but we expected it coming in,” they told the newspaper, “because of his outstanding career as a fireman.”

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.