By Alex Dobuzinskis
(Reuters) - A California judge has dismissed attempted manslaughter and assault charges against a 71-year-old physician who shot a man who followed him to his driveway after a road-rage clash, a spokesman for prosecutors said on Wednesday.
Marin County Judge Kelly V. Simmons found on Tuesday that Dr. James Simon acted within the bounds of reason when he shot the man twice in the torso last July 17, said Barry Borden, a spokesman for the local District Attorney's Office.
Simon claimed self-defense after the shooting in Corte Madera, north of San Francisco, and prosecutors acknowledged when they filed charges that the physician honestly believed he needed to use deadly force against then 69-year-old William Osenton. But they called that belief unfounded.
The altercation began after Simon, driving with his wife in the passenger seat, pulled around and passed Osenton's car at a traffic light, prompting Osenton to tailgate the couple, Simon's defense attorney, Charles Dresow, said last year.
Osenton followed them to their home, where he drove his automobile into the garage door as it was closing, Dresow said.
From there the confrontation intensified until Simon retrieved a .357 magnum handgun, fired a warning shot into a hillside and fired twice more, striking Osenton in the torso, Dresow said.
In audio from the 911 tape after the shooting, which ABC News posted on its website, Simon with his voice trembling says, "I had a man follow me into my garage, and I had to shoot him, and I'm sorry."
The Marin County judge's decision to drop charges of attempted involuntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm against Simon came at a preliminary hearing to determine if there was enough evidence for a trial.
"I'm sorry if I'm at a loss of words," Simon, who has been free on bail since September, told reporters after the hearing.
Osenton, who declined to comment outside of court, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Prosecutors, who have the option of charging Simon again, are still reviewing the case, prosecution spokesman Borden said.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Grant McCool)