Police: Judge is road rage victim

December 18, 2008 2:07:34 PM PST
The victim in a Berks County road rage incident turns out to be a judge.It happened in West Reading on Wednesday.

Police say Common Pleas Judge Stephen Lieberman pulled into traffic, and notices a man in a commercial van behind hime cursing and yelling. That man is identified by court records as 21-year-old Ryan Schappell, a carpet and tile installer from Kutztown.

Berks County District Attorney John Adams says Schappell continued to harrass the judge for two blocks.

Lieberman stopped his car, and got out.

"Judge Lieberman stops his vehicle and gets out to find out why this driver is shouting at him and yelling profanities at him. There's somewhat of an altercation," Adams said.

Lieberman, alarmed by the man's rage, calls 911 and tries to return to his car, when it's alleged Scheppel used his truck to hit the judge, pinning Lieberman to his SUV.

"It appeared he was trying to go around the judge's car and the judge, however he doesn't go around the judge. He strikes the judge who was right next to his own vehicle," said Adams. "I personally observed the dent in the judge's vehicle where the judge was pushed into his vehicle, causing a dent."

That's not the way Schapell remembers it. He later told police that Lieberman "brake checked" him, cut in front of him, then exited his vehicle and began to yell and curse at him.

Lieberman is suffering from leg, back and foot injuries.

The D.A. says there is no reason to believe Lieberman was targeted because he was a judge, and that there was no prior contact between him and Schappell. Instead, he says, this appears to be a random road rage incident.

According to court records, Schappell was distressed over the pace of travel.

He has been charged with aggravated assault. Drug and alcohol tests were conducted, with the results still pending.

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