Eck cited; case referred to Gila County - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

Eck cited; case referred to Gila County

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Posted: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 11:00 pm

The Pinal County Sheriff's Office has cited Apache Junction Vice Mayor R.E. Eck with having no proof of insurance on top of recommending charges of aggravated assault related to an Oct. 2 road rage incident.

According to a sheriff's office report, a deputy called and made two trips to Eck's home last week to confirm whether he had proof of insurance, but the vice mayor's wife either said he wasn't available or to call his lawyer.

R.E. Eck

The deputy eventually served Eck with the citation Monday by leaving it with his wife.

James Tinker, Eck's attorney, said Eck was insured at the time of the incident, and he will resolve the citation with the court.

Meanwhile, the Pinal County Attorney's Office has referred the case to the Gila County attorney, who will decide whether to charge Eck, said Kostas Kalaitzidis, spokesman for the Pinal County attorney.

The sheriff's office has recommended a charge of aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon for Eck. The charge carries a term of five to 15 years in prison.

According to a sheriff's office report, Eck ran his 1998 Chevrolet pickup truck into the rear of a 2008 Harley Davidson motorcycle driven by Eric Martinez, 34, of Gold Canyon.

Martinez and Eck had words and Martinez punched Eck in the face. Eck then intentionally rammed the motorcycle again, knocking Martinez's wife, Christine Martinez, off the bike.

Eck told an investigator he didn't remember hitting the motorcycle because he was too dazed from getting punched.

Martinez said Eck's 21-year-old son, Robert Eck III, attacked him with a fence pole, striking him on the back and aggravating an injury that was mending from surgery in May.

The sheriff's office also recommended a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon against Eck III.

Martinez has been charged with misdemeanor assault.

"I was really upset that day, but I wasn't trying to hurt anybody," Martinez said.

According to Eck's account, the altercation began when he was traveling west on Old West Highway and Martinez cut in front of him at the stoplight at Idaho Road and made an obscene hand gesture.

Eck said Martinez got off the motorcycle and approached him, said a few words and then punched him.

Eck said he shifted the truck into drive and tried to drive away.

Eck suffered minor injuries, but he was flown to the hospital because he lost consciousness three times.

Martinez said the altercation actually began as he passed a convenience store and Eck cut him off as he exited, causing Martinez to swerve to avoid hitting Eck.

Martinez said in an interview Wednesday that he passed Eck and was trying to ride away when he had to stop at the traffic signal at Idaho Road. He saw that the truck was going to hit him and he braced himself, but his wife didn't see it coming and she got knocked off.

Martinez said he put down his kick stand and approached the truck when Eck III got out and hit him with a green pole.

"I didn't let myself get out of control," Martinez said, adding that he didn't want to hurt Eck's son, who he believed was a teenager.

Martinez, 6 feet 2 inches and 295 pounds, has worked as a repossession man and bouncer. He said he took the pole from Eck III and punched him.

"He hit me like a little girl in the face, and they were just trying to attack us the whole time," Eck III wrote in a witness statement.

Eck revved the engine and threatened to hit the motorcycle and Martinez's wife, Martinez told investigators.

Eck then rammed the motorcycle with Christine Martinez on board.

A witness then separated the men.

Christine Martinez was taken to Banner Baywood Medical Center with minor injuries.

There were four independent eyewitnesses.

One said Martinez was driving recklessly and directed an obscene hand gesture toward the witness as he passed.

The witness, Donald Blank, said he saw Martinez make an unsafe lane change in front of the truck and then get off his bike and punch Eck and Eck's son as the son tried to help his father.

Blank said the truck rolled forward when Martinez pulled Eck out of the truck.

Witness John Dorsey was waiting on a motorcycle at the intersection when Martinez pulled alongside him and Eck stopped behind Martinez.

"John then heard (Eck) shout to Eric (Martinez), 'You want a (expletive) piece of me,'" the report states.

Dorsey said the truck didn't hit the motorcycle until after they exchanged words.

Witness Patrick Ballow said he saw the truck run into the motorcycle and saw both Ecks leave the truck and attack Martinez, and one of them threw a green pole at Martinez.

Bruce Flanagan saw a motorcycle down, and he stopped to help.

Flanagan saw someone throw a "fencing t-stake" at the motorcyclist and another person offer his chin for Martinez to hit.

Martinez said he has retained an attorney and plans to sue Eck and possibly Apache Junction.

"If I believed I was wrong on this I would have pled out already," Martinez said.

Martinez said he has lost his jobs as a repossession agent and limousine driver as a result of the incident.

"All I want is my bike fixed and our medical bills paid," Martinez said.

Eck declined comment Wednesday.

"Mr. Eck believes in the justice system and he believes in his innocence," Tinker said.

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