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Clinton Street road rager expected to plead guilty on Friday (updated)

Posted by on April 1st, 2009 at 12:35 pm

visit to SE Clinton -3

The block of SE Clinton where
the road rage incident occurred.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Back in 2007, we covered the story of Johnny Eschweiler, the man who intentionally used his car to strike two men on bikes in a road rage incident on SE Clinton Street.

Shortly after the incident, victim Ben Ramsdell told BikePortland that he had tapped on Eschweiler’s car window after Eschweiler had nearly run him over, and verbally taken him to task. Ramsdell woke up in an ambulance.

Minutes later, Eschweiler hit another man, Timothy Mastne, who was not involved in the original altercation.

Eschweiler is expected to plead guilty this Friday to several charges, and to receive a penalty, according to Ramsdell’s lawyer Mark Ginsberg.

The hearing is on Friday, April 3, at 11:00am in Multnomah County Courthouse Room 608, with Judge McShane presiding.

Story continues below


This has been a long, drawn-out road.

Immediately after the incident, Eschweiler was charged with four counts of assault. Representing himself at the hearing, he pled not guilty.

Eschweiler was re-indicted in May of 2008 and charged with two counts of attempted murder. In August, he pled insanity to all counts.

After discussions with Eschweiler and the two victims, the DA has now reached a plea agreement with Eschweiler.

According to Ginsberg, significant mental health issues make prison an inappropriate option. Eschweiler will enter a guilty plea for a list of more minor offenses in exchange for penalties that make more sense in this particular case. Ginsberg does not yet know what the exact charges will be.

Both victims plan to attend Friday’s hearing.

Today’s hearing was postponed until April 9th at 1:45pm, when it will take place in room #608 of the Multnomah County Courthouse. An agreement about penalties is still being sought, and the specific charges that will be levied against Mr. Eschweiler have not yet been determined.

On hand for the hearing today were Mr. Eschweiler and a companion, Ben Ramsdell, the other witness/victim Timothy Mastne with his wife and son, both victims’ lawyers, several interested onlookers, and a small crowd of news media, including three camera crews hoping to get a good story for the noon news hour.

You can read our extensive coverage of this incident (including media and infrastructure issues) here.

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  • Wuss912 April 1, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    hopefully they take his keys away and give him a bike.

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  • velo April 1, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    One penalty he should get is to NEVER be allowed to drive again. This should become standard for all severe road rage incidents, the dude attempted to commit murder even if he might be insane.

    Mental health issues should inform conviction and treatment, but there needs to be serious thought given to why this guy was driving in the first place. Operating a 3,000 pound potential weapon is not an activity that everyone should be allowed to do.

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  • a.O April 1, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    The case raises some really important social issues:

    (1) Why can’t we as a society exercise the political will to ensure people who are not fit to drive no longer get behind the wheel?

    (2) Why can’t we set higher standards for issuance of a driver license in the first place? It takes years to get a permit to operate a gethermal power plant and they do a lot less harm to the world than unfit drivers.

    (3) Why can’t we understand that people need mental health care, just as they need physical health care? And that the criminal justice system cannot treat or even address social problems caused by mental illness?

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  • PoPo April 1, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    What a.O said.

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  • dave April 1, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    As a recent road rage victim myself, I can’t understand the leniency of the court. This is as close to murder/manslaughter as one can get. Will follow this on Friday to see what happens.

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  • peejay April 1, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Great comment, a.O. While I want to see stiff penalties for abusing bikers, I agree that in many cases, you have to go beyond justice, and work towards improving lives. The guy needs help.

    That said, do throw his keys away, and cut up his license.

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  • Hart April 1, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    Oregon: the state where pleading insanity actually works.

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  • Steven J April 1, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    glad the DA had sense enough to call it attempted murder even if was reduced later.

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  • Krampus April 1, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    More proof drivers can threaten/kill cyclists and still get nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

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  • Mike April 1, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    He was sane enough to drive, he’s sane enough to go to prison. That’s BS.

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  • Hart April 1, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    Does the Oregon DMV normally hand out DLs, registration, titles, and plates to lunatics? Cuz that would be a really crappy policy. Maybe that should be one of the questions you have to answer when you take your computer driving test:

    Do you ever have sudden lose of rationality and logic wherein you may use your vehicle as an instrument of death: (choose all that apply)

    d]Once a day
    e]Only when I pass a cyclist
    f]Only when charged with attempted murder
    g]All of the above

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  • PoPo April 1, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    One of the issues with driving privileges and insurance is of course one is legally required to have these things if you want to drive, but people who don’t have these things are still often able to access vehicles and drive them.

    Police stop them all the time.

    Increasing the requirements to obtain a driver’s license, or taking more licenses away from people when they abuse the privilege, is an excellent idea that may have a positive effect.

    That in itself, however, will not necessarily prevent all of the people we would rather not be driving, from driving.

    How does society monitor all the thousands of people without driving privileges to be sure that they really don’t drive motor vehicles?

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  • thefuture April 1, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    Hart i’ve cross checked your quiz question with the oregonian’s most recent caption contest and determined the answer E.


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  • Hart April 1, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    Hart i’ve cross checked your quiz question with the oregonian’s most recent caption contest

    Wow, that’s some pure Suburbanite agro rage right there. I didn’t see anything in the cartoon that implied the cyclist didn’t stop at the stop sign. Now, if there had been little zoom lines behind him, sure, I could understand. If anything the speech bubble caption should read, “Holy $#¡t, all those cars and that bike are levitating six inches off the ground!” But I don’t expect the Boregonian readers to have that kind of imagination. If it’s any consolation, most of them were written by the same six or seven republicans who are the same six or seven republicans that lust for the deaths of cyclists on the Oregonlive site every day.

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  • Donna April 1, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    (3) Why can’t we understand that people need mental health care, just as they need physical health care? And that the criminal justice system cannot treat or even address social problems caused by mental illness?

    Not to mention that mental health treatment is way, way cheaper than jail.

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  • Steven J April 1, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    Re: the Or-live cartoon.

    By the popularity of the “assisted suicide law” Comment, It may be inferred the average voter coming from a place of ignorance & fear.
    Such are the same responsible for the real danger portrayed in the study.

    Hardly political satire anymore…just a hack artist that couldn’t make it @ Coney Island.

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  • Hart April 1, 2009 at 11:51 pm

    I don’t know if it even matters, but I wrote the Oregonian and told them the level of hate mail and mocking of actual cyclist deaths on their cartoon caption suggestion forum warranted complaint to the FCC.

    Obviously on their website anything goes, but if making fun of dead cyclists makes into their published “News” paper, then its fair game for FCC decency violation.

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  • John Lascurettes April 2, 2009 at 3:07 am

    Hart, the Oregonian would have no fear of a threat such as that, because the FCC has nothing to do with print media. Vote with your dollars. Don’t buy the paper.

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  • Krampus April 2, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Oh lighten up a little folks, that Oregonian caption contest made me chuckle a bit 🙂 I especially liked the “Can you believe he’s wearing a helmet” caption.. I see this all the time, helmeted riders darting through traffic, blowing reds, etc, etc… the captions made me laugh 😛

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  • bahueh April 2, 2009 at 10:21 am

    Krampus, there are those on this blog that can’t seem to understand that their own actions and blatant disregard for simple traffic signals create such public sentiment….nothing like alienating those you’re trying to win over.

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  • KruckyBoy April 2, 2009 at 10:24 am

    Seriously folks- it’s a local small town paper. LIGHTEN UP. It’s a caption cartoon contest. It’s supposed to be humorous. Sometimes humor is off color. Sometimes off color humor is funny. Sometimes it’s not. These are user by comments, not paid professionals.

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  • jeff April 2, 2009 at 11:03 am

    “These are user by comments, not paid professionals.”

    And this is the root of the problem for me – how can the O allow these types of comments, and not just for this cartoon contest. Read the comments to any story for the knee-jerk, craigslist-type posts about minorities, illegal aliens, running over cyclists, whatever. Talk about lowering the discourse. I know, they are just comments, but they are in the O’s forum and so sanctioned by the O.

    I think A.o. has suggested this before – there’s a nice sensationalist O story just waiting to be written – about the stupid and hateful comments on their very own site.

    Crappy paper anyways, with only a few exceptions. They lost my subscription long ago.

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  • Velo Vanguard April 2, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    Right-on, Jeff. The bigoted and generally psychotic statements that appear on Oregonlive.com are a disgrace to the Oregonian and have no place in a civil society. The Oregonian has no obligation to provide a public forum for hate mongering, yet it chooses to do so. This newspaper is an embarrassment to our city and our state and the sooner it disappears the better. Furlough the rest of the incompetent fools who call themselves reporters!

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  • Mike April 2, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    The O can’t reign in their own editorials, now you want them to sensor the public?

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  • jeff April 2, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    “The O can’t reign in their own editorials, now you want them to sensor the public?”

    Insofar as removing the forum for unmoderated public comments, yes. Not doing so while considering themselves a reputable news source is in conflict.

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  • beth h April 2, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    @ # 15:

    “Not to mention that mental health treatment is way, way cheaper than jail.”

    If that’s the case, then why is it that so many people who are in need of mental health treatment cannot afford it?

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  • bike militia April 2, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    anyone want to talk about the ongoing problem of drivers using se clinton and other “bike boulevards” as slightly-faster alternatives to busy roads?

    seems to me this may have been the case with the maniac in question. i think they need to completely close clinton to car traffic in certain spots. a barrier in the middle of the block maybe?

    i was on clinton today, and calling it “bike safe” would be a pretty bad joke. construction on division had it choked with cars. also used to ride clinton or lincoln in the mornings, and its easy to see how one could have get in an altercation with a driver on either one

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  • a.O April 3, 2009 at 8:33 am

    Yeah, I think we need more traffic controls where drivers are forced to turn off bike boulevards.

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  • Shawna April 3, 2009 at 10:28 am

    I’ve been noticing an apparent increase in car traffic on Clinton and Lincoln, too. And a lot of aggressive traffic, at that. I’d like to see an Oregonian cartoon about cars punching it through the stop sign at 35th and Lincoln.

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  • 21 speed April 5, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    I can’t wait to see what kind of wrist slapping this guy gets. Ouch, your honor! Ouch, quit it, please, ouch!

    Poor guy: all those mental health issues and everything – he’s the real victim, not the cyclists!! NOT!

    Housing people in jails is only expensive IF YOU ARE STUPID ENOUGH to spend a lot of money on them!! Put them in tents and make ’em grow their own food – make it an experience they will not want to repeat – maybe they will think twice next time!

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  • willjongill April 8, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    Yeah, 21 Speed has it right. Why don’t we just dump everyone on Sauvie’s Island and put some landmines and fences on the beach – then make them wear special collars that blow up if you leave the island – they can grow their own food or eat each other – plus we can put in cameras everywhere to make a TV show out of it, to teach kids not to end up in jail.

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