A judge on Tuesday ordered a Piedmont man to undergo anger management after pleading guilty to a charge of reckless endangerment stemming from videos the defendant made while driving past local cyclists.
Keith Maddox, 48, was arrested May 22 and charged with reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor, after he posted the videos on his Facebook page.
The videos show Maddox driving along DeArmanville Road, complaining that cyclists are holding up morning traffic. In one video, he appears to drive close to a cyclist before speeding away.
“I oughta run him in the ditch is what I should have done,” he says in the video.
The videos spread across the Internet, setting off outrage among cyclists across the country.
Maddox later removed the videos and apologized for his actions, writing, “I want to publicly apologize to all people that I have offended over those absolute stupid videos that I posted ... anybody who knows me knows that I would never ever intentionally hurt anyone.”
Maddox pleaded guilty Tuesday to the charge of reckless endangerment.
If Maddox successfully completes the anger management course the charge will be dismissed, said Matthew Wade, chief deputy with the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office.
With no prior criminal charges or speeding tickets, Maddox would likely only have had to pay a fine, Wade said. The diversion program allows the court to address the matter more seriously, Wade explained.
“The goal here was to make sure that justice was served and that behavior was changed,” Wade said, adding that Maddox seemed to him to be “a genuine person. He seemed remorseful.”
A driver being five minutes late getting somewhere means little, Wade explained, “if somebody ever got hurt. You can’t take that back, on either side. We want to make sure people are safe and laws are followed.”
Maddox declined comment after the hearing.
The judge’s ruling Tuesday sat well with Stan Palla, executive director of the Alabama Bicycle Coalition.
“I think he truly was remorseful, based on what I read,” Palla said, speaking of news accounts after Tuesday’s hearing. “He agreed that he did something wrong.”
Palla also said he was glad the state filed the charge against Maddox, which shows the local government takes the safety of cyclists seriously.
“I felt good that as a state, we reacted in a proper way,” he said.
Palla is hoping state lawmakers continue to treat the matter seriously during the next legislative session. He expects a bill to be reintroduced next year that would require drivers passing cyclists on state roads to leave at least 3 feet between their cars and bikes.
The bill passed the House last year, but died when the Legislature adjourned abruptly. Palla said Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, has offered to prefile the bill for the next session.
“And we’ll go at it one more time,” Palla said.
It comes down to educating drivers that cyclists have the legal right to share roads with motorists, Palla said.
“I think some people, when they get behind the wheel, they just lose perspective,” he said.
Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.