UPDATED: I have provided a copy of the supplemental report from the Fitchburg Police here which includes more information about exactly how the crash happened, the behavior of the victims before they were hit on their bicycles and witness accounts. It is also helpful to note that John Dohm has a history of aggressive behavior, including buzzing his neighbor’s house with a helicopter after a disagreement.
Fitchburg police have asked the Dane County District Attorney to issue criminal charges against a Madison-area property manager who allegedly ran two men on bicycles off the road in a confrontation August 26.
The decision to pursue reckless injury and disorderly conduct charges against John Dohm, 61, follows an extensive investigation and reverses a no foul call made by the officers who first responded to the crash on S. Fitchburg Road, south of Madison.
That initial finding was based on the conflicting statements from Dohm and the two men on bikes, elite-level riders Joe Maloney, 25, and Max Ackerman, a member of the University of Wisconsin – Madison cycling team. Both riders suffered head injuries and contusions after landing in the ditch.
Dohm told the officers on the scene that he honked at Ackerman and Maloney to prompt them to move to the side of the narrow road, and that they responded with obscene gestures. In his version, he stopped to talk to the cyclists and they swerved around him.
Dohm then returned to his car. He reported that Ackerman and Maloney swerved into his car as he drove past on the two-lane road with no shoulders.
Scuff marks along the passenger side of Dohm’s Jaguar confirm the car and the bikes collided.
Ackerman and Maloney provided a significantly different account.
They told police that Dohm drove up close behind them, beeped his horn, then buzzed by within an arm’s length. They agree that they swerved around Dohm when he stopped and tried to approach them, but said the motorist swerved and knocked them into the ditch on his second pass.
Two witnesses reported that Dohm had been driving aggressively prior to the collision, but neither of them saw the impact that sent Ackerman and Maloney off the road.
After reviewing the initial reports, police investigators interviewed the bicyclists and witnesses again and gathered additional information. The follow up led to the request for charges, said Fitchburg Police Lt. Chad Brecklin.
If the district attorney follows the recommendation, Dohm would face two felony counts of reckless injury and one misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct. Those charges could result in a maximum 25-year sentence for the owner of Regency Property Management.
Charles Giesen, a Madison attorney who represented Dohm in previous cases, said he had not reviewed the police reports and could not comment on the decision by the Fitchburg police.
Daniel Goldberg, an attorney who represents bicyclists and serves on the Wisconsin Bike Fed Board of Directors, called the potential charges welcome and significant.
“Mr. Dohm’s behavior was reckless and outrageous,” Goldberg said. “It reinforces the fears we all share when we head out for a ride.
“The recommendation for prosecution is a very important development for all riders,” he said. “Hopefully, it will remind motorists that cyclists have the right to share our roads with other vehicles. The District Attorney can send the message that those who refuse to understand this will pay the consequences.”
The Wisconsin Bike Fed will follow this case and report on what action the district attorney decides to take.
The Bike Fed provides free educational materials for motorists and bicyclists to promote safety for all on Wisconsin roads. Click here for the laws and guidelines that apply to people in cars and people on bikes.