It’s unusual for dozens of media cameras to show up at a court hearing for an alleged misdemeanor crime, but when the person charged is accused of causing the motorcycle road rage incident that’s gotten 5 million hits on YouTube, it becomes apparent why Christopher Cruz’s first appearance before a judge got extensive media attention.
Cruz, 28, of Passaic, New Jersey, faced judge Abraham Clott in criminal court on Wednesday on unlawful imprisonment and reckless endangerment charges.
Cruz has admitted to investigators that he’s the person whose image was captured on a GoPro camera mounted on the helmet of a fellow biker during an en masse motorcycle ride and stunt session on the West Side Highway around 1:30 Sunday afternoon. In the video, Cruz, on his motorcycle, cut in front of a black Range Rover SUV, and slowed well below the posted speed limit, almost to a complete stop, in front of the vehicle.
A split second later, Cruz’s motorcycle and the SUV, driven by Alexian Lien, 32, made contact. Cruz was not injured, but as the video shows, dozens and dozens of motorcycles surrounded the SUV, and within 30 seconds, Lien sped off, running over another biker in the process.
Cops say Lien feared for his life, and for the lives of his wife and two year-old, who were also in the vehicle with him. About four minutes later, dozens of bikers who’d caught up with Lien surrounded his car. One of the bikers shattered Lien’s driver’s side window with a motorcycle helmet, then pulled Lien out of the SUV and beat him up, while Lien’s terrified wife and child, who were passengers in the SUV, looked on.
But back in court Wednesday, Judge Clott called Cruz’s driving “a risk to human life,” and set bail at the amount prosecutors had requested, of $15,000 bond or $1,500 cash. The latter amount was posted for Cruz by his mother and the mother of his six- and two-year-old children.
Once he turned in his passport and driver’s license, Cruz was free to go home, but many significant, unresolved issues remain. Most significant among them is the fate of the two men seen on the video pummeling Lien’s SUV. One of them, Allen Edwards, 42, of Jamaica, Queens, turned himself in, but prosecutors said Wednesday that they’re not pursuing charges against him at this time.
Meanwhile, another biker, who’s seen in the video shattering Lien’s window, is still at large. It’s suspected that Edwards, who had been initially charged by police, is cooperating with investigators to help them take that other biker into custody.
As for Cruz, who police say caused the incident that led in the first place to the entire car chase and road rage beating, his attorney told PIX11 News that the video that investigators and prosecutors use as evidence does not depict all of the activity related to the alleged crimes.
“The video shows only some things,” said H. Benjamin Perez, Cruz”s lawyer. “There’s more to this than the video shows. My client had nothing to do with what happened to this gentleman.”
Perez also tried to distance Cruz from the people who carried out the beating that was captured on video. “He never assaulted this man,” Perez said about his client. “He doesn’t know any of the people involved in this case.”
A grand jury is scheduled to decide on Friday whether or not there is cause to prosecute Christopher Cruz. Meanwhile, Edwin Mieses, 32, the driver of the motorcycle that Lien ran over in his attempt to escape danger, remains in St. Luke’s Hospital in an induced coma. A silent demonstration of support for him by motorcycle enthusiasts was expected to take place outside of the Morningside Heights hospital Wednesday night.
Lien, the SUV driver, has not been charged in the incident.