published Friday, March 14th, 2014

Teen gets probation for assaulting cyclist

JASPER, Tenn. — The older of two Marion County, Tenn., teens charged in the January assault of cyclist Anders Swanson was ordered Thursday to perform public service, serve probation, submit to a drug test and pay court costs.

Swanson, whose case has drawn attention from the cycling community locally and nationally, said he "respects" the orders handed down Thursday by Juvenile Judge Jay Blevins and was thankful for Marion County authorities' efforts to bring charges.

"We are disappointed with the ... sentence," Swanson said late Thursday. "This has been a very traumatic experience for me and my wife, and we appreciate the support of the community here."

Blevins ordered the 16-year-old to serve 90 days' probation and perform 16 hours of public service along with the other stipulations. If the boy complies, his record could be cleared when the case goes up June 12 under an "informal adjustment" or an "informal adjudication," according to 12th Judicial District Attorney Mike Taylor. That arrangement is something like a pretrial diversion in adult court, he said.

The 14-year-old in the case has not yet appeared in court, Taylor said. He faces an appearance before the same judge April 10.

Swanson, a 30-year-old Chattanooga native, has been a cyclist for more than eight years.

The incident happened while he was cycling around the Raccoon Mountain reservoir. Investigators say the teens admitted they blew an air horn as they drove past Swanson in their truck, then sprayed him with pepper spray from another vehicle later the same day.

Swanson told police the teens swerved their truck toward him during the first encounter, forcing him to maneuver to avoid being hit. The teens showed up while he was loading his bike into his vehicle and sprayed him in the mouth and eyes with pepper spray, he said.

According to investigators, the teens admitted the behavior to authorities in Hamilton County. But when it was discovered the assault happened in Marion County, they told authorities there that Swanson was the aggressor.

Taylor reviewed evidence from both counties while weighing whether to advise Marion County authorities to charge the teens.

The 16-year-old originally was charged with violating the three-foot law, having a vehicle with a horn that was not in good working condition, and misdemeanor assault. The 14-year-old was charged with possession of a horn that made an unreasonably loud or harsh sound.

Taylor said two criminal summonses naming Swanson that were never served are being held and will be dismissed. That portion of the case will be expunged, he said. Taylor would not discuss any allegations contained in those summonses.

Brian Schafer, an employee of a local cycle shop and cyclist for the past 30 years, said he was "torn" by the outcome of the case.

A motorist threatening a cyclist is "unnecessary; it's dangerous, you could really hurt somebody," Schafer said.

"Hopefully their parents have punished them enough that they won't do it again," he said. "As juveniles, I'm kind of in favor of letting them learn from it. I did some stupid stuff as a juvenile.

"Potentially, these kids have something to offer the world," Schafer said.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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