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'Guilty' in road rage incident

Published January 11. 2014 09:00AM

A Carbon County jury panel deliberated for about an hour Friday morning before finding a Lansford man guilty of all criminal counts in what police called a road rage incident.

Joseph Mongi, 29, was found guilty of six counts of recklessly endangering another person and one count each of simple assault and persistent disorderly conduct.

Judge Steven R. Serfass, who presided, deferred sentencing and ordered the adult probation office prepare a presentence investigation report.

Mongi was charged by Mahoning Township police officer Christopher Ritter following an accident that occurred about 8:35 p.m. on Oct. 23, 2012, along SR902.

Ritter charged that Mongi had been tailgating a vehicle operated by Beth Ann Newton, of Lehighton, as the two were southbound. Newton pulled off the road at a former used car lot to let Mongi pass.

Newton testified that she was afraid for herself by the actions of Mongi. She said Mongi's pickup truck was very close to her vehicle and she tapped the brakes on her vehicle several times to try and get him to back off.

She said after she had pulled off the road to let him pass, she pulled out to continue southbound when she encountered the defendant a second time. She said Mongi had stopped his pickup truck in the middle of the southbound lane a short distance from where she had pulled off.

She said she stopped her vehicle, a Toyota, behind Mongi's truck. Mongi exited his truck and approached her and told her to get out of her vehicle. He was using curse words, Newton said, and she refused to open her window or talk to him.

She then attempted to pull around him to get away and that was when her car collided with a northbound vehicle operated by Nicole Frendt, of Lehighton.

Assistant District Attorney William McDonald called a total of six witnesses including Frendt and her two passengers, all who were injured. Also called to the stand was James Varley, since the accident happened in front of his home. Varley said Mongi was verbally abusive toward Newton.

Ritter also testified saying he determined that Mongi was at fault based on his interviews with all persons at the scene and his investigation of the accident and his police experience. He said Mongi was yelling at Newton when he arrived and had to warn him several times to stop.

Mongi denied he was tailgating Newton. He said he was following her down the hill but was at least a car length behind her.

He said after she pulled off the road he drove by and heard a loud bang. He thought his vehicle might have struck a mirror on Newton's car or struck something on the road. He said he did stop in the middle of the southbound lane, but admitted that was a mistake.

He denied that he told Newton to get out of the vehicle, denied that he wanted to harm her, and denied that he was verbally abusive toward her. He did admit using a curse word once to her. He said he stopped to assist her thinking she was having a problem because she came up behind him flashing her high beams "at least 100 times."

He also accused Ritter of having a "thing" for him and that was why he was arrested.

The trial began on Thursday with the jury selected on Monday.

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