Jury acquits man of felony, finds him guilty of lesser offense in motorcycle incident

2014-05-09T19:15:00Z 2014-05-09T20:34:07Z Jury acquits man of felony, finds him guilty of lesser offense in motorcycle incidentBy EDDIE GREGG egregg@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

After a two-day trial, a jury found a man not guilty Thursday of felony criminal endangerment, but convicted him of a lesser offense, negligent endangerment, for his role in an incident last August that ended with a tipped over motorcycle. 

Prosecutors had charged Vincent Joseph Meza, 36, with assault with a weapon, or an alternate count of criminal endangerment. He also faced counts of misdemeanor assault and criminal mischief. The assault charge was dismissed and the jury, after about three and a half hours of deliberation, found him not guilty of criminal mischief.

Meza was arrested Aug. 24 after police were called to the intersection of State Avenue and Washington Street at about 7:50 a.m.

Prosecutors alleged he drove a pickup at a 55-year-old man on a motorcycle who was stopped at the intersection.

The motorcyclist said he accelerated to avoid a collision, causing the motorcycle to crash, according to court records. The man also claimed he was attacked by Meza.

William A. D’Alton, Meza's defense attorney, argued and witnesses testified that Meza was a passenger, not the driver, in the pickup involved in the incident.

According to charging documents, there is an ongoing dispute between the motorcyclist and Meza and Meza's father about a prior assault.

Meza’s sentencing hearing hasn’t yet been set. Negligent endangerment is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, up to one year in jail or both.

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