Bridge engineer receives summons following road rage incident

Saturday, December 14, 2002

An engineer working on the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge project was summoned into court Friday, charged with punching another driver in the face in an apparent fit of road rage.

A witness gave police the license plate number of a blue van driven by the man Cape Girardeau resident Marilyn Zeller said reached in her car window and struck her after she left the Hardee's parking lot on William Street Tuesday afternoon.

Police traced the license number to Nicolas Raudin, 32, a French native living in Cape Girardeau. On Friday, Raudin was charged with assault and ordered to appear in Cape Girardeau's municipal court Jan. 7.

Raudin denied any wrongdoing in the incident.

"I never hit any woman," he said.

He said he is undecided about whether he will contest the charge, explaining that he is unfamiliar with U.S. laws and what options he has.

Shortly after the incident, Zeller said she was mostly just emotionally shaken, but she could still feel where she was hit. She said the incident left her feeling vulnerable.

Police contacted her on Friday to let her know a summons was issued to Raudin.

Cape Girardeau police Sgt. Rick Schmidt said the charge was filed in municipal court because of the lack of physical injury.

However, Raudin's case still may land in associate circuit court. Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle said he was surprised to learn it had been filed with municipal court because all other cases of road rage in the county have been prosecuted by the state.

"I still intend to review it for possible state charges," he said late Friday.

Schmidt said he was not aware of any plans to involve the county.

If convicted in municipal court, Raudin faces up to a $500 fine and 90 days in jail. Because no serious injury occurred to Zeller, sentencing could be much lighter.

"Whether or not I think that's sufficient punishment, I'm not sure," Zeller said. "But at least it's something. I think he should be required to receive some sort of treatment or counseling."

Raudin moved to Cape Girardeau earlier this year as an employee of the French bridge cable construction firm, Freyssinet. The firm is working with the Missouri Department of Transportation, which purchased a cable system used in the construction of the new Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge. Raudin provides technical support to the project through Freyssinet, said MoDOT district engineer Scott Meyer.

A conviction of a misdemeanor assault could affect Raudin's residency, said Nathan Cooper, an attorney specializing in immigration issues at the Lichtenegger, Weiss and Fetterhoff firm in Jackson.

"A misdemeanor assault is probably not a deportable assault," he said.

However, if convicted, Raudin would be ineligible for citizenship and could face difficulties in renewing a green card for continued residency or a work visa, Cooper said. Resident aliens convicted of felony assault face possible deportation hearings.

335-6611, extension 160

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