CLEARFIELD – Yesterday, jurors deliberated a road rage incident involving a gun for nearly two hours before having their foreperson advise the court unanimous verdicts couldn’t be reached on all of the charges. Judge Paul E. Cherry presided over the trial.
Scott V. Moldenhauer, 44, of DuBois was charged with three counts each of simple assault and recklessly endangering another person and one count each of terroristic threats, harassment and disorderly conduct.
When asked by Cherry, the jury foreperson indicated it wouldn’t be possible to reach unanimous decisions on all of the charges if given more time for deliberations. The foreperson further advised jurors couldn’t reach decisions for one count of simple assault and all three counts of recklessly endangering another person.
When asked by Cherry, the foreperson announced the verdicts for the agreed upon charges. The jury found Moldenhauer not guilty of two counts of simple assault involving the alleged juvenile victims in the case; terroristic threats, harassment and disorderly conduct. Cherry subsequently declared a mistrial for the three counts of recklessly endangering another person, as well as for the one count of simple assault involving the alleged adult male victim.
Assistant District Attorney Warren B. Mikesell III prosecuted the case on behalf of the commonwealth. Moldenhauer was represented by defense attorney Blair Hindman of Brookville. When asked, Mikesell said he would discuss the trial with District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr., and it would be up to Shaw to pursue a re-trial on the three counts of recklessly endangering another person and the one count of simple assault.
Jurors entered deliberations at approximately 3:04 p.m. At approximately 4:01 p.m., jurors halted their deliberations and requested that Cherry provide the definitions for simple assault, recklessly endangering another person and harassment, which he did. Then, at approximately 4:51 p.m., jurors returned to the courtroom, at which point the foreperson advised Cherry that after being given ample time, they couldn’t reach unanimous decisions on all of the charges.
The charges stem from a road rage incident involving a gun on July 11, 2013 in DuBois. The first witness to testify yesterday was the alleged victim, a 38-year-old DuBois man. He was driving with his two children on Main Street and then turned left onto Spring Avenue.
At that point, he observed another vehicle, which was operated by Moldenhauer, coming up Spring Avenue in his direction. Other vehicles, he said, lined the street, which caused him to back into a no parking area. As the vehicle approached, he noticed Moldenhauer putting his window down and he did the same.
The two men subsequently engaged in a heated exchange of words, he testified, adding Moldenhauer then pulled a gun out, asking, “Do you have a problem now?” About the same time, he said his son who was a passenger warned him, saying, “Dad, he has a gun.”
When asked by Mikesell, the man said that he felt scared of Moldenhauer, as he was looking directly down the barrel of a gun. He also feared for the safety of his two children. After Moldenhauer pulled away, he turned to get his license plate information and immediately called 9-1-1.
The driver’s 11-year-old son provided a very similar account of the incident. His father and Moldenhauer, he said, were swearing at each other. During their heated exchange, he said Moldenhauer pulled a gun, which was pointed toward his father’s driver’s side window. The boy said he was scared when the incident was taking place.
Arresting officer Steve Russo testified about his investigation into the road rage incident. On July 11, 2013, he was on routine patrol when dispatched to the area of Main Street and Spring Avenue. At first, he tried to locate the Moldenhauer vehicle but wasn’t able to and so he responded to the alleged victim’s residence.
When speaking with him, Russo described the man as being “shaken up, upset and angry.” The man, he said, admitted he didn’t have the right-of-way but backed up to allow Moldenhauer to pass, which is when their verbal altercation occurred involving the gun. At the residence, Russo said with the man’s permission, he spoke to both children who were passengers.
According to him, he spoke with the children separately, and they gave “darn near perfect” accounts of the incident. While at the scene, he received another call, as Moldenhauer reported an incident of harassment. He returned the call to Moldenhauer later at the DuBois City police station.
Russo said Moldenhauer told him he was harassed by some guy and had to pull his gun. He proceeded to explain to Moldenhauer that he couldn’t pull his gun on someone unless he or someone else was in danger. Russo said Moldenhauer tried to justify his actions by saying that the guy threatened to kill his family.
Moldenhauer also provided his version of the incident on July 11, 2013. That day he was traveling down Spring Avenue when the alleged victim’s vehicle appeared rapidly, as it turned the corner from Main Street. The driver, he said, became very animated and put his middle fingers up.
After that Moldenhauer said the driver positioned his vehicle, so that he could not proceed down Spring Avenue. “He said, ‘what the [expletive] is your problem?’ and I said, ‘Hey, I have the right-of-way here,’” said Moldenhauer.
According to Moldenhauer, the alleged victim was mean and aggressive. This, he said, scared him and caused his anxiety levels to go up. He claimed the alleged victim threatened to kill him and his entire family. Moldenhauer said he raised his gun to his chest area when the alleged victim opened his car door.
“I wanted to let him know that his threat could be matched,” he said. “I wanted him to know I had the means to defend his deadly threat.” Moldenhauer said he not only feared for his own life, but also for the lives of his wife and two children who were his passengers.
Under questioning by Mikesell, Moldenhauer said he couldn’t have pulled away from the scene of the incident. When asked what stopped him, Moldenhauer indicated there was a curb and road sign. Mikesell pointed out there wasn’t any road signs in the picture presented to him.
When asked why he carried the gun, Moldenhauer said it was for his protection. When asked, Moldenhauer said his gun wasn’t loaded at the time of the incident, and he never removed it from its holster. Mikesell pointed out in Moldenhauer’s call to 9-1-1 that he told the operator twice he was permitted to carry the gun and pulled it on the alleged victim, so that he knew he was “messing with the wrong man.”
Jennifer Moldenhauer, the defendant’s wife, also testified and provided a similar account as him. While the men exchanged words, she turned around to check on her children in the back seat. When she turned back around, she noticed her husband had pulled his gun to his chest area.
According to her, she didn’t hear the exact words exchanged, just a lot of swearing. Although she didn’t see the alleged victim exit his vehicle, she told jurors that she saw him open his car door and get back in once her husband retrieved his gun.
When asked by Mikesell, Jennifer Moldenhauer said she never provided a statement to DuBois City police. She said when Russo called her husband about 45 minutes after the incident she offered to speak with police. However, she said that Russo told her husband that it wouldn’t be necessary.
During the rebuttal, Mikesell recalled Russo to clarify his handling of the investigation. Russo then told jurors he made multiple attempts the same day and the days following the incident to get Moldenhauer to complete a complaint form. However, he said Moldenhauer wanted it mailed to him, which Russo advised was against the police department’s policy.
Mikesell also recalled Officer Joseph Stanton, who was present when Russo called Moldenhauer on the day of the incident. He said that Russo tried accommodating Moldenhauer, who had also called for assistance and to file a complaint.
During his closing, Hindman said it wasn’t a nice conversation either way between the two men and both were wrong for their actions in front of their children. He said Moldenhauer had the right to carry his gun and to retrieve it for protective purposes.
“But the commonwealth wants you to believe that’s simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, terroristic threats, harassment and disorderly conduct,” he said. He also argued police didn’t conduct a thorough investigation and labeled Moldenhauer as guilty in 15 minutes.
Mikesell countered, saying Moldenhauer used his gun to win a verbal argument. He also argued that if Moldenhauer really felt threatened during the incident that he would have driven up over the curb and through the grassy area to flee the scene and to protect himself and his family.
“Instead, he was out to prove who the biggest guy on the block was,” said Mikesell. He reminded the jury that although Moldenhauer didn’t extend his arm entirely out his car window, he still had the alleged victim in his sights.
“Something more tragic could have happened there that night,” he said. “He had the right to possess the gun but not to hold it without the presence of an equal threat. We can’t have people thinking they can settle simple arguments with guns, or someone is going to end up injured or dead.”