Jury gets rage case
A Carbon County jury panel was scheduled to begin deliberations this morning in the trial of a county man charged in what police called a road rage incident.
Joseph Mongi, 29, of Lansford, went on trial Thursday morning before Judge Steven R. Serfass facing six counts of recklessly endangering another person, and one count each of simple assault and persistent disorderly conduct.
He was arrested by Mahoning Township police for an incident on Oct. 23, 2012, following an accident along Route 902, which occurred about 8:35 p.m.
Officer Christopher Ritter charged that Mongi had been tailgating a vehicle operated by Beth Ann Newton, Lehighton, as the two were southbound. Newton pulled off the road at a former used car lot to let Mongi pass.
She then pulled out and found Mongi's pickup truck stopped in the middle of the southbound lane a short distance from where she had stopped.
After a confrontation, she pulled out to go around Mongi's vehicle when her vehicle and another collided.
Thursday Newton told the jury she was returning from a meeting she attended in Lansford. She is a school teacher at the St. Joseph Regional Academy in Jim Thorpe.
As she was headed home to Lehighton, she noticed a pickup truck behind her and very close to her rear bumper.
She said she tapped her brake pedal several times in an attempt to have the driver of the truck back off, but he did not.
She then said she pulled off the road at a former used car lot to let the other driver pass her. She said he hoped that would have ended the situation because she was scared.
However, Newton said when she pulled back onto 902 and drove a short distance, she found the truck stopped in the middle of the southbound lane. She said she stopped and was afraid of what was happening.
She said the truck driver, later identified as Mongi, got out of his vehicle and walked toward her. He said he yelled at her and told her to get out of her vehicle, using several curse words in the process.
She refused to get out of the car and decided to try to leave. She then tried to pull around Mongi's truck when her Toyota vehicle collided with a Kia vehicle, which was being driven northbound. She was injured and was later treated at a hospital.
Under questioning by defense attorney Andrew Zelonis, Newton said she wanted to move because she was stopped on a blind curve. She also said should could not back up for fear of another vehicle coming up behind her in the curve.
Assistant District Attorney William McDonald also called James Varley. The crash happened in front of his home.
Varley said before hearing the crash he heard a male's voice yelling something. As he began to go to the front of his home he heard the crash and then saw that an accident had occurred.
Varley said when he exited the home with his son to render aid to those involved he saw Mongi "verbally abusing" Newton.
Also testifying was Nicole Frendt of Lehighton, the driver of the Kia involved in the crash.
She said as she was headed northbound, she saw a pickup truck stopped in the middle of the southbound lane.
As she started to pass it, Newton's vehicle pulled into her lane and the crash occurred.
Frendt and her passengers, Jocelyn Cain and Kyle Hummel, all testified to the injuries they sustained in the crash.
Officer Ritter testified he responded to the accident. He described the scene and noted that Mongi had a young child in the car. It was reported it was Mongi's 22-month-old son.
He said he found Mongi standing outside of his vehicle and complaining of a knee injury. He said he spoke to Mongi and Newton. Both told their side.
He said based on his observations at the scene, what both parties said, and his experience as a police officer, he determined that Mongi was at fault.
He said while at the scene he found Mongi berating Newton and using repeated curse words. He said he had to tell Mongi several times to calm down.
He admitted that one time he used a curse word himself to Mongi because he would not stop yelling at Newton.
Mongi denied he was tailgating Newton the night of the incident. He said both were southbound and that Newton was braking a lot while rounding curves. He said he was at least a full car length behind her.
He said after Newton pulled off the road and as he passed he heard a loud bang. He did not know if he had struck her side view mirror or that something from the road had struck his truck.
He admitted stopping on the road, but said he thought he was over to the side as far as he could go.
He said a few moments later Newton came up behind him at a high rate of speed flashing her high beams off and on repeatedly.
He said he thought something was wrong and walked back to Newton's vehicle and asked her what the problem was.
When she did answer, he admitted using a curse word at her. He said he only wanted to assist her if she had a problem.
He denied threatening her or telling her to get out of her vehicle. He also denied kicking or punching the side of Newton's car, as she had claimed in her testimony.
He also claimed Ritter had threatened to "get him" because he was a volunteer firefighter. He also denied that he wanted to harm Newton.
Under cross examination by McDonald, Mongi said Newton flashed her high beams 100 or more times in the short distance between where she pulled off the road and where he parked his truck.
He also said he wasn't verbally abusive toward Newton.
Mongi's mother, Karen, testified briefly. She said she was called to the scene by her son because of the child with him.
She claimed when she got to the scene she tried to speak to Ritter about her grandson and alleged that he pushed her aside and would not talk to her.