Taxi driver sues alleged attacker
November 28, 2007
ASPEN ” An Aspen taxi driver allegedly assaulted after a passenger got angry about a pack of cigarettes has sued for damages.
Tom Coggins, a High Mountain Taxi driver, filed the suit against John McDonald of New York in Pitkin County District Court earlier this week.
Aspen police arrested John McDonald, 44, of Bayside, N.Y., on charges of second-degree assault after the attack Nov. 5. McDonald has not yet pleaded on the charges.
Police arrived at the Aspen Store at 5:07 a.m. that day to find McDonald standing by the open door of the taxi, with blood covering his hands and the taxi driver, Tom Coggins, bleeding from the face, said Sgt. Bill Linn.
According to the lawsuit, McDonald’s attack broke at least one bone in Coggin’s face.
The lawsuit also sheds light on some other details of the alleged attack. According to the suit, Coggins picked up McDonald outside of the Mountain Chalet on Durant Street. When McDonald asked to be taken somewhere to get cigarettes, Coggins drove a few blocks to The Little Nell and went in to find cigarettes, but could not find the correct brand.
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When Coggins returned and told McDonald he could not find his cigarettes, McDonald got angry and punched a concrete column near the cab, then went back into the hotel, the lawsuit says.
Following the anger, Coggins left The Little Nell and did not charge McDonald for the ride. Coggins also reported McDonald to police after leaving the hotel.
Later that night, McDonald approached officer Matt Burg about where to get cigarettes. Burg directed him to the Aspen Store.
According to Linn, when McDonald left the Aspen Store with cigarettes, the taxi driver was filling up with gas at a pump outside.
This was the second assault on a High Mountain Taxi driver in less than a year. The first occurred July 30, when an Oklahoma man allegedly assaulted taxi driver Paul Nesvat and stole his cab. Brooks Mims Talton III, 41, faces charges of motor vehicle theft, driving under the influence and misdemeanor assault. The case against Talton is on hold in district court until mid-January.
“It’s very out of character for the town,” said Todd Gardner, owner of High Mountain Taxi. “It’s a horrible deal. Our drivers are out there working hard, trying to make a living, obviously they don’t look for this type of thing. We’ve taken a wait and see approach and hopefully nothing else will occur.”
Both Nesvat and Coggins have filed civil suits against their alleged attackers.
Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is email@example.com.