Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008

Trail advocate pleads guilty to assaulting pedestrian

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A board member of the Capital Crescent Trail Coalition pleaded guilty to second-degree assault earlier this month in connection with an incident that took place on the popular hiker-biker trail in April.

Isaac Hantman of Bethesda was fined $1,000 and sentenced to probation before judgment for one year on Aug. 1 after pleading guilty to assaulting a woman on the trail on April 24.

According to the statement of charges filed in Montgomery County District Court, Karen Hughes, 48, of Kensington, was walking her dog on a portion of the trail in Bethesda when she refused to move out of Hantman's way. He was biking toward her and called for her to move.

Hantman, 67, then got off his bike and argued with Hughes, who said she thought there was enough room for the bicycle to pass, according to the charging documents. The arguing allegedly included religious slurs.

"I did the one thing I thought would get a rise out of him," Hughes told The Gazette, although she said she now regrets the name-calling. "He was a bully, obviously, and he just wouldn't let it go."

Hughes tried to walk away, and Hantman allegedly jumped on her back and placed one arm around her head and another around her throat and applied pressure for approximately two to three minutes, according to the charging documents.

Hantman would not comment. His attorney, Frank Pichini, said Hantman's version of the incident differed from the woman's but declined further comment.

According to the charging documents, Hughes said Hantman identified himself as a member of the Park Patrol, a group of volunteers who help police monitor the trail. She said Hantman was wearing a Park Patrol T-shirt.

Lt. Karen Petrarca of the Maryland-National Capital Park Police said Hantman is not a Park Patrol volunteer but was in the past.

Wayne Phyillaier, another board member of the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail, said the group would take the incident under advisement.

Lt. Mike Meixsell, a spokesman for Park Police, said any verbal confrontation between a Park Patrol volunteer and another person using the trail would be considered inappropriate and unprofessional on the part of the volunteer.

According to Meixsell, the Park Patrol serves as the "eyes and ears" for Park Police on the trail.