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Police: Downed Power Line Used in Post-Irene Attack

Defendant hurled death threats and sparking power line at man he had followed to Silver Spring, according to court records.

A D.C. attorney attacked a man with a live power line—downed by Hurricane Irene—during an altercation in which the lawyer used his car as a battering ram against his alleged victim, police said.

Richard J. Bialczak, 32, of the 9000 block of Milestone Way in College Park, is charged with first-degree assault, second-degree assault, malicious destruction of property and two counts of reckless endangerment as a result of the Aug. 28 incident in Silver Spring.

Charging documents filed in Montgomery County District Court describe the following scenario the night after Hurricane Irene tore through the area:

  • Shortly before midnight on Sunday, Bialczak was in his 2005 Hyundai Accent, following a man for several blocks in Silver Spring.
  • The victim, afraid to go home, kept driving, but was forced to stop near Brewster Avenue's intersection with Worth Avenue, where the roadway was cordoned off for a power line downed during the hurricane.
  • In the ensuing confrontation, Bialczak threatened to kill the man and said that, "his boss told him to follow him."
  • The man locked himself in his car and called 911. Meanwhile, Bialczak pulled at the door handle, kicked and punched the door and glass, then broke off the antenna and used it to lash the car repeatedly.
  • Bialczak then grabbed the downed power line—which was still sparking—threw it onto the hood of the car, got back in his Hyundai and slammed it several times into the front and driver’s side of the victim’s vehicle.
  • When police arrived, Bialczak smelled of alcohol and refused to answer their questions. He was "extremely upset and not making sense when he spoke," Officer Paris Capalupo wrote in the charging documents.
  • Neighbors who saw the altercation described Bialczak as the aggressor and corroborated the alleged victim’s sequence of events.

At Bialczak's bail review hearing Monday in Montgomery County District Court, attorneys on both sides said they were still trying to piece together what happened.

Howard R. Cheris, Bialczak's attorney, said he works for a Washington, D.C. law firm and has no prior record.

"This is completely inconsistent with his life of good, law-abiding conduct," Charis said. "… It seems fairly bizarre, but I just don’t think we’re at the bottom of this."

Judge Stephen P. Johnson lowered Bialczak's bail from $200,000 to $50,000 and ordered him into alcohol treatment. A preliminary hearing is set for Sept. 23.

JDH September 02, 2011 at 08:58 PM
A neighbor who lives adjacent to the event and was on the scene just confirmed for us today that the wire or wires were definitely live and sparking on Sunday. It's hard to believe that the wires were left "hot" for so long. Maybe this was a sign of Pepco negligence, or maybe just of the magnitude of the outages they were dealing with. Futhermore, since it isn't clear who put up the yellow warning tapes, maybe Pepco didn't even have a report about the wires. This could have occurred if the warning tapes were placed by the police instead of Pepco. The victim is a young man, apparently in his twenties. His car is a small foreign car (something similar to a Honda Civic, etc.). From its appearance, the young man is working on the car (lots of gray primer, etc.). The TV news stories made a lot about the fact that the attacker ripped off the front bumper of the car, an act which would have ordinarily required inhuman strength (even with today's plastic bumpers). However the bumper appeared to have been damaged at an earlier time and so presumably wasn't held on very well to begin with. It will be interesting to see whether the true facts behind this story comes out in court.
Theresa Defino September 03, 2011 at 04:03 AM
Sebastian Montes 3:47pm on Friday, September 2, 2011 It is profoundly troubling that so many news agencies have published the alleged victim's name. That flies in the face of long-standing ethical standards. Really? Like how? i was a newspaper reporter and have been a journalist for 30 years. You surely can report the name of an "alleged" crime victim, unless it is case involving domestic violence, a minor or for some other reason that might jeopardize the safety of the victim. Probably some good old reporting might get a lot of details flowing.
Sebastian Montes September 03, 2011 at 04:32 AM
That hasn't been my experience ... but you've got a quarter-century's experience on me. What troubles me about that is reporters believing they can capably determine whether a victim would or wouldn't be endangered by publishing their name.
Theresa Defino September 03, 2011 at 11:48 AM
That's not up to a reporter to decide. It would be made by the police. If the reporters knew something additional, then they would be ethically bound to consider it. I fail to see the ethical breach you think occurred here. And be careful about attacking our peers and profession-- press attacking press. There's enough of happening from the outside. Nice chatting with you.
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