Six motorcyclists accused of being involved in a chase of an SUV driver on the West Side Highway that ended when he pulled off the highway and was dragged out of the car and violently attacked appeared in court Wednesday.
Only one of the defendants entered a plea: Christopher Cruz pleaded guilty to charges of second-degree assault and first-degree riot. He's expected to be sentenced to four months in city jail, then five years of probation.
Prosecutors have said Cruz deliberately slowed down on his motorcycle while in front of Alexian Lien's Range Rover on the highway, trapping him in a motorcade of bikers.
His attorney, Benjamin Perez, said Cruz was not at the scene of the alleged beating on Sept. 29, 2013, and never touched the victim. But Cruz could have faced up to 7 years in state prison if the case went to trial.
The other five defendants are awaiting trial dates and are due back in court March 11. One of those defendants, Wojciech Braszczok, is an undercover NYPD officer who was not on duty at the time of the assault.
Braszczok was seen on video smashing a window on the Range Rover after it pulled off the West Side Highway, but not participating in the assault. He did not call 911, as undercovers are required to immediately do when they are a witness to a crime, according to law enforcement officials.
His attorney had no comment Wednesday. The NYPD said Braszczok remains on modified duty.
Three of the other four defendants in court included Robert Sims, Jason Brown and Reginald Chance.
The chase and attack was captured on a widely viewed YouTube video. The dispute was set off when a group of bikers, in town for an unauthorized motorcycle rally, slowed down in front of Lien's Range Rover on the West Side Highway.
The video then shows a large group of bikers clustering around the Range Rover heading north. One of the bikers then moves into the SUV's lane and rides briefly alongside it, peering in through the driver's side window. It's unclear from the video what the driver might have done to anger the motorcyclist.
The biker then cuts in front of the Range Rover and, still staring at the driver, suddenly slows down. It isn't captured on the video, but the motorcycle and SUV bumped, police said.
The motorcyclists, 20 to 30 in all, then stop on the highway, blocking the SUV's path. Some dismount and approach the vehicle. Police said some of the bikers then began damaging the Range Rover.
The video shows the SUV suddenly accelerating, bouncing over at least one of the motorcycles and its rider, Edwin Mieses, as others scramble to get out of the way. The cyclists give chase, pursuing the driver for a few miles.
The chase ended when the SUV exited the highway and got stuck in traffic. The video shows one biker using his helmet to smash the driver's window. Police said the group then pulled the man from the SUV and beat him, although that part isn't shown on the recording posted online.
Lien was taken to a hospital where he needed stitches for his face. His wife and 2-year-old were not injured.
Mieses, the biker run over by Lien, suffered two broken legs and spinal injuries that paralyzed him from the waist down. He has said he does not blame Lien for his injuries and that he cannot judge what may have been going through his mind during the highway confrontation.
Lien was not charged. Aside from a written statement released shortly after the attack, Lien and his family have not spoken publicly.