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Motorcyclist charged with assault on SUV driver has Virginia ties

NEW YORK (CNN) — A 29-year-old motorcyclist has been charged with gang assault and other charges in connection with the beating of an SUV driver in a high-profile case caught on video last week, New York police said Monday.

Craig Wright “hit (driver Alexian) Lien numerous times with his fists, feet, and helmet after forcibly removing Lien from his SUV,” a police spokesman said.

He is the latest person to be charged in the case that involved a group of motorcyclists on Manhattan’s West Side Highway and Lien, who was driving a Range Rover along with his wife and small child.

Wright, who was arrested at his home in Brooklyn, also was charged with assault and unlawful imprisonment and was to be arraigned Monday night.

He is also seen on a video punching through the window of the SUV, the spokesman said. The video was taken with an iPad by someone who was at the scene of the attack. Police didn’t say whether the person who shot the video was a biker or a bystander.

Police said Wright’s license tag was visible in the video — which hasn’t been released to the media — and his uncle identified him for authorities.

In March, Wright pleaded guilty to driving with a suspended license, police said. It is unclear whether he was driving with a suspended license at the time of the SUV incident.

He was also convicted in Virginia in 2005 for reckless driving.

One of the other bikers has been charged with the felonies of first-degree assault and gang assault.

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The lawyer for Reginald Chance, who was captured on video smashing his shiny helmet into an SUV window, concedes his client “overreacted,” but claims his client did not take part in beating the driver.

One video, taken from a rider’s helmet camera, shows bikers — apparently angered when Lien’s SUV collided with a biker who slowed abruptly — pursuing the vehicle until they could surround it and beat on the windows. Other photos show Lien beaten bloody and lying on the pavement.

Defense lawyer Gregory Watts said it’s “a given” that Chance hit the SUV’s window with his helmet. But he said Chance then walked away.

He claimed Chance was knocked off his motorcycle by Lien’s SUV after bikers had surrounded the vehicle earlier.

“The law does permit someone who is a victim of an accident to at least attempt to get the identification of the motorist,” Watts said. “My client obviously overreacted in that manner, but he is not this thug assaulting someone who’s harmless, contrary to the public opinion that’s being put out there.”

Police said Chance’s license was suspended in June for six months.

Defenders of the bikers, including the relatives of one biker who was critically injured, have criticized Lien for driving through the crowd of motorcycles.

Investigation involves off-duty cops

At least two off-duty undercover police officers who were riding with the motorcyclists that day are being questioned by internal affairs, a law enforcement official told CNN.

One of the officers reportedly told internal affairs investigators he didn’t come forward for four days because he was reportedly afraid his cover would be blown. The officer has been assigned to desk duty. He has hired a lawyer, sources told CNN.

The officer was riding with his motorcycle club when the incident occurred and saw much of the confrontation, a law enforcement source told CNN on Friday.

A bump on a tire

Lien, with his wife and their 2-year-old daughter, was driving his Range Rover back from a wedding anniversary celebration.

The helmet video seized by police shows dozens of bikers swarming past him on Manhattan’s West Side Highway. One motorcycle quickly slowed down in front of Lien, who bumped its rear tire, slightly injuring rider Christopher Cruz.

Lien pulled to a stop, and angry bikers surrounded his vehicle, hitting it and spiking its tires, police said.

Lien stepped on the gas, plowing into three more bikers, including Edwin Mieses, whose wife says he is paralyzed.

The video shows the Range Rover stopping again — long enough for a biker to open the door — and Lien then driving away until traffic forced him to the final stop.

Police say the subsequent beating included kicks to Lien’s head and body as he lay on the highway.

Injuries to SUV driver, biker

Lien suffered two black eyes and cuts on his face and side, requiring stitches, a police detective’s criminal complaint said.

His wife and daughter were unharmed.

Mieses’ family, meanwhile, has said he was paralyzed and needs a ventilator to breathe in the hospital.

They claim Mieses was trying to help Lien.

Chance’s lawyer said prosecutors should conduct a grand jury investigation of Lien for hitting Mieses and Chance with the SUV.

Criminal case

Chance was ordered held on $75,000 bond Sunday.

Assistant District Attorney Samantha Turino said Chance’s license had been suspended and he should not have been driving. She said Chance’s arrest record includes a marijuana charge in 2013 and attempted criminal possession of a weapon in 2006.

Christopher Cruz, 28, who police say is the biker who slowed in front of Lien, was charged with reckless driving and other misdemeanors. He was released on bond.

His lawyer, H. Benjamin Perez, said, “He never tried to assault him in any way. And he does not know any of the other motorcyclists who were involved in this beating.”

Another biker, Robert Sims, is accused of stomping on Lien. He surrendered on Friday on charges of attempted assault and gang assault.

CNN’s Steve Almasy wrote from Atlanta; CNN’s Susan Candiotti, Chris Welch and Margaret Conley reported from New York; CNN’s David Simpson, Tom Watkins and Greg Botelho reported from Atlanta.

The-CNN-Wire
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