Naked Ride incident goes to court Wednesday

Reverend Phil Sano
[Reverend Phil Sano]

This Wednesday, a colorful and well-known character in Portland’s bike scene, will find himself in court facing 2.5 years in jail.

Reverend Phil Sano is on trial for an incident that happened during the World Naked Bike Ride on June 10, 2006.

Based on eyewitness statements, and reports published in the Portland Tribune and the Oregonian, here’s a brief summary of what transpired.

As the large, 500+ person ride entered W Burnside from NW Third, Phil attempted to safely merge the group onto the roadway by stepping in front of oncoming motor vehicle traffic (this is sometimes called “corking”).

Then, according to reporter Boaz Herzog in the Oregonian on June 29, 2006,

“At some point, a gray Jeep Liberty came toward him from Burnside at a rate of…a few miles per hour. Sano put his hands up and got off his bike. But the Jeep continued, knocking over his bike, according to the police report.”

[Photo from the incident. Rev. Phil (bald head) is behind Officer Stensgaard (in red) while several witnesses look on.]

Phil (and several eyewitnesses) claims he was trying to explain the situation to Jeep driver Amanda Truscott but she was “very belligerent and screaming hysterically.” Phil says her conduct and actions made it clear to him that “she was drunk and maybe on some other drugs.”

Phil goes on to say that,

“There is no question in my mind that if someone had not stopped her she would have driven right into the pack of bikers, endangering their safety. I had to keep her from harming my friends. That was my duty. I would be ashamed if she had hurt someone.”

The situation escalated when Truscott commanded her passenger, off-duty cop Chad Stensgaard, to leave the Jeep and confront Phil. Stensgaard approached Phil and an altercation ensued. The Police arrived a few minutes later and immediately handcuffed Phil.

Phil is being charged with four misdemeanors: Criminal Mischief, indecent Exposure, Disorderly Conduct and Open Alcoholic Container. If convicted on all four charges he could face 2.5 years in jail.

Phil’s trial is this Wednesday (12/13) at the Multnomah County Courthouse (1021 SW 4th Ave.), room #406. Support from the bicycle community is encouraged and there’s a benefit party planned after the trial.

[Flyer for Rev Phil’s post-trial benefit party.]

It seems to me that this will be yet another case of “he said/she said.” The judge will have to decide who to believe; an off-duty cop wearing a suit and flanked by other members of the Portland Police Bureau, or a cyclist who was naked, had a can of Hamm’s beer on his bike, and stepped into the path of motor vehicle traffic.

Given the initial reports it seems like the Police officers gave the benefit of the doubt to the motorist and immediately placed the blame on Phil. Even though eyewitness statements say Truscott attempted to run Phil over and that the off-duty cop was the aggressor in the altercation, it was Phil who was handcuffed and arrested on the scene.

When Phil tried to tell his side of the story, Detective Paul Dolbey was quoted in the Oregonian on June 29th as saying, “It’s not uncommon for people to make allegations when they’re arrested.”

According to one eyewitness, the driver and passenger of the Jeep were not given field sobriety tests, were never questioned, and drove off just minutes after the incident.

Both sides will argue that the other was drunk and/or drugged up at the time of the incident and will hope to discredit each other’s character and testimony by delving into their less-than squeaky-clean backgrounds.

Either way, it won’t be pretty…I just hope it’s fair.

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