A Cambridgeshire man has been found guilty of causing racially or religiously aggravated fear or provocation of violence following a road rage incident involving four American cyclists, two of them serving soldiers in the US Army. Despite admitting punching his victim repeatedly, Robert Steele, aged 47, was found not guilty of assault and possession of an offensive weapon.
The incident took place on 6 March on the B1040 at Papworth Everard when self-employed bricklayer Steele took issue with the quartet – Paul Shiefer, Brianna Huot, Refugio Lopez and Lance Harris – who all take part in triathlons, after they reportedly pulled out of the road in front of him, reports Cambridge News.
One member of the group, Mr Lopez, attracted particular attention from Steele because, as the driver himself admitted, “I thought Mr Lopez looked foreign and he is foreign. The others looked as English as I am, so I only said it to him.”
Although the accused denied the charges against him, according to a report of the court proceedings on Cambridge News, in his own testimony he not only admitted hitting Mr Lopez, but also punching him repeatedly.
Penny Cannon, speaking for the prosecution, told Steele: “Mr Lopez was a small chap with only cycling gear on. He could see you were angry and would have felt terrified. If you were in his position you would have been scared too.”
Steele claimed that Mr Lopez was headbutting him with his cycle helmet and admitted: “I gave him three upper cuts to his face while his head was down. I gave him a couple of whacks and he fell to the ground.”
He then retrieved some plastic piping from his van and waved it at the cyclists, shouting racial abuse at Mr Lopez and saying “I’m going to kill you.”
In Steele’s defence, Guy Holland said that the accused was suffering pressure due to one of his children suffering from cerebral palsy. He added: “Mr Steele is of good character and has never shown violence in the last 47 years.”
Steele was fined £300 and told to pay court costs of £215 as well as a £15 victim surcharge.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.