ELYRIA — People aren’t always happy with sentences handed down in court, but Elyria resident Patrick Buckley is still stewing that his attacker received 11 days in jail after what he described as a particularly brutal assault.
Buckley, who has burn scars on his arms that he said were from the fight, said the incident caused him to lose his job and seek psychiatric help for post traumatic stress syndrome caused by the attack.
The attack, which both the Elyria prosecutor and the defendant’s attorney described as a “road rage incident,” occurred Aug. 16, 2010.
Buckley was driving his motorcycle southbound on West River Road when a driver pulled behind him in a PT Cruiser. Buckley told police in 2010 that the driver, later identified as Robert Gibson Jr., was tailgating him, and he later sped in front of him, cutting him off.
Buckley said he argued with Gibson about his driving on Bell Avenue when Gibson grabbed him in a “bear type” hug, flipping him over the bike and on the ground. Gibson then knocked the motorcycle over, choked Buckley and dragged him over to the motorcycle’s engine to burn his chest and arms, according to Buckley’s statement to Elyria police.
“I couldn’t fight back. I couldn’t do anything,” Buckley recalled.
Gibson left before police arrived, and a witness, Precious Armstrong, told police she saw the two men arguing, and she recounted the events as Buckley did, according to a police report. Another witness, Brittany Conner, didn’t witness the attack, but she told police she saw the PT Cruiser tailgating the motorcycle.
Gibson was not identified as the driver until the next day when Buckley told police that Gibson was working at the Speedway gas station on Lorain Boulevard. Gibson, who was questioned by police, said he was the driver, but he said Buckley had scratched his car, leading to the fight.
Gibson also denied starting the fight, and he said Buckley tried to “knee” him in the groin and “head butt” him with his helmet. He told police he left because he believed Buckley had a knife, according to police reports.
Gibson was arrested Sept. 2, leading to a legal battle lasting three years.
Gibson initially was charged with felonious assault, but a Lorain County grand jury refused to indict him on the felony charge, sending the case back to Elyria Municipal Court. Gibson’s charge was changed to a misdemeanor assault charge, and, after failing to appear in court several times, he was convicted of assault Aug. 27 after entering a no contest plea.
Gibson was sentenced to 11 days in jail and ordered to pay $2,000 restitution to Buckley.
But for Buckley, who said his life was ruined by the incident, the sentence wasn’t near enough.
“I’m scarred for life. Every time I look at (the scars), they remind me of the horrible thing that happened,” he said.
Buckley said he had bruised and cracked ribs, contusions and second- and third-degree burns on his arms and chest. He said he was too scared to ride his motorcycle, had to begin seeing a psychiatrist and was eventually fired from his job.
The money he will receive from Gibson isn’t enough to pay for medical bills, lost work and the damage to his motorcycle, according to Buckley.
“I had so much anger and frustration about what happened. I was confrontational because of what happened, to say the least,” he said.
Elyria Prosecutor Scott Strait said he felt the sentence was fair given the circumstances.
Road-rage cases are particularly difficult to prove, and Buckley and Gibson each had their own stories about what led to Buckley’s injuries, Strait said. A county grand jury refused to indict Gibson because members didn’t believe they could prove he intended to injure Buckley, he said.
In addition, person who witnessed the incident never showed up in court.
“It was Buckley’s word over Gibson’s word about who started the fight. … In the end, the burden on us is to prove the offense, and it comes down to what I can prove,” he said.
Gibson’s attorney, Kenneth Nelson, said there was an issue of who started the fight, and he said Buckley was partially to blame. He said Gibson pleaded no contest simply to end the three-year legal battle.
Attempts to reach Gibson were unsuccessful.
Buckley, who said he was just starting to get over the incident, said the sentencing last week was another upset. He said he didn’t have the opportunity to speak in court, nor was he notified of the hearing.
“I just got really, really wronged in this situation,” he said.
Gibson has a past conviction for theft, possession of drugs and possession of drug abuse instruments in Aug. 2012, according to court records. Buckley has past charges for assault, criminal trespass and menacing, but those were dismissed in court.
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