published Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Marion County teens charged in cyclist harassment incident

A pair of juveniles have been charged for their role in a Jan. 11 incident on Raccoon Mountain involving a bicyclist that caused an uproar locally and within the national cycling community.

Marion County Sheriff Ronnie "Bo" Burnett said Tuesday that misdemeanor charges against two teens, ages 14 and 16, were filed as delinquent petitions issued out of Marion County Juvenile Court.

The 16-year-old was charged with two traffic violations -- violation of the three-foot law and having a vehicle with a horn that was not in good working condition -- and misdemeanor assault for spraying pepper spray into the face of victim Anders Swanson, Burnett said.

The 14-year-old was charged with possession of a horn that made an unreasonably loud or harsh sound, he said.

Both teens have a March 13 court date in Juvenile Court.

Burnett said that charges will not be brought against Swanson.

The announcement of charges against the teens follows a review of the case by 12th Judicial District Attorney General Mike Taylor, who advised that delinquency charges could be brought.

Controversy arose after the teenagers initially admitted to Chattanooga police that they sprayed Swanson with pepper spray, but then told Marion County authorities that Swanson had been the aggressor.

Taylor had access to the reports completed by both departments as he evaluated the case.

"Once I had a chance to sit down and look at it, based on the facts, I just made my decisions," Taylor said. "I didn't have to mull over it for days."

The traffic violations stem from an initial encounter between the teens and Swanson when the teens admitted to blowing an air horn as they drove by Swanson, who was cycling on Raccoon Mountain. Swanson told Chattanooga police the driver jerked his truck toward him, causing him to maneuver to avoid being hit.

Staff writer Ben Benton contributed to this story.

Contact David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6731.

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