A 75-year-old Erie man accused of harassing two cyclists along County Line Road in September by following them and relentlessly honking his SUV's horn tried to take a plea deal on Thursday, Feb. 14, but a Boulder County judge rejected the plea until the victims in the case could have a say.
James Ernst negotiated a deal with Boulder County prosecutors to plead guilty to two counts of harassment and two counts of improper use of a horn, but Boulder County Judge Noel Blum said he would not accept the deal.
"The victims need to be apprised of any proposed plea and given the opportunity to appear on these cases," Blum said, adding that given the high-profile nature of the case he was surprised the victims were not notified.
Two cyclists recorded a video of Ernst driving his SUV behind them on County Line Road in September while honking his horn. The men put the video on the Internet, and it garnered thousands of views and comments. The incident highlighted the ongoing tension between some motorists and some cyclists in Boulder County's roads. Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said that the issue is among the top issues among county residents.
The Colorado State Patrol investigated the video, tracked the SUV to Ernst, and ticketed him in two cases. He is charged with two misdemeanor counts of harassment, two counts of illegal use of a horn, and two counts of driving too slowly. Ernst has not obtained an attorney to represent him and told prosecutors on Thursday that he just wanted to conclude the case.
He told Blum the same.
"This has put a lot of stress on me, sir," he said.
Blum reset the case for Feb. 21 and said he does not foresee any issues with concluding the case at that time once the victims are notified of the pending plea agreement.
Outside of the courtroom on Thursday, Ernst, who has declined to offer his side of the story to reporters, said the media has gotten it all wrong. He said he honked his horn at two cyclists who were rude to him and pounded on his SUV.
"I am riding on the road that is too narrow for bicycles, no shoulder, double-yellow line for miles," he said.
He declined to answer specific questions and instead waved at a video camera taping his comments and walked away.