A Beaumont man who chased down and tried to hit a motorcyclist during a road rage confrontation on Interstate 215 in Perris pleaded guilty today to assault with a deadly weapon and other charges.
James Winans Clarkson, 57, is slated to be sentenced to six months in jail and three years probation when he returns to court on April 6.
During a trial-setting conference today, Clarkson dropped his not guilty plea under terms proposed by his attorney, Mary Bernal, and accepted by Riverside County Superior Court Judge Helios Hernandez.
The District Attorney’s Office was not a party to the plea agreement.
Under the terms of the plea bargain, in exchange for Clarkson’s acknowledgement of guilt on the assault charge, as well as misdemeanor counts of brandishing a gun and carrying a concealed weapon, he will not have to go to prison. Had he been convicted by a jury, he could have faced up to four years behind bars.
Clarkson remains free on a $25,000 bond.
According to the California Highway Patrol, on April 26, 2011, Clarkson went after a 23-year-old San Bernardino man riding his motorcycle southbound on Interstate 215 in Perris after the biker speed around him.
“The defendant felt that the victim had cut him off and maybe clipped his driver’s side mirror,” Deputy District Attorney Jason Armand told City
News Service. “So he went after the guy.”
CHP Officer Sylvia Vargas said the motorcyclist was “safely splitting traffic and actually thanking motorists that shared the lane” at the time of the encounter with Clarkson.
The victim, identified only as a student, continued south on the freeway, and Clarkson allegedly sped after him in his 1998 Toyota pickup, Vargas said.
“For (three) miles, the driver of the Toyota made numerous attempts to strike and ram the rider,” Vargas said. “The rider attempted to evade the driver … resulting in multiple lane changes and high-speed riding.”
Clarkson exited the freeway, and the motorcyclist followed him, pulling alongside to ask “what are you doing?” Armand said.
Clarkson flashed a revolver at the victim, who immediately drove away, going to the nearest police station to report what had happened and provide the pickup truck’s license plate number, according to the CHP.
According to Armand, there were no injuries stemming from the incident, which he characterized as classic road rage.
Clarkson, an engineer, has no prior criminal history.