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Lawyer: Man charged in Naperville road-rage death was victim, not aggressor

A memorial is set up Thursday June 14 2012 Ogden River road Naperville after crash there Wednesday left Gerald W.

A memorial is set up on Thursday, June 14, 2012 at Ogden and River road in Naperville after a crash there on Wednesday left Gerald W. Puglise, 63, of Lombard dead. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 21, 2012 10:53PM

The driver charged in a deadly Naperville road rage crash was only following the other car involved in the dispute to snap a photo of its license plate so he could give that information to police, his attorney said Thursday.

Michael Moreno also was punched and threatened by two passengers in the other car when both vehicles stopped briefly just before the June 13 crash, defense attorney Paul DeLuca said.

“He was struck in the head, he was physically assaulted,” DeLuca said as he asked a DuPage County judge to lower Moreno’s $750,000 bail.

Judge George Bakalis reduced bail for the 31-year-old Moreno to $500,000 — requiring him to post $50,000 to be released from the DuPage County Jail. DeLuca said Moreno likely still won’t be able to post that amount.

The Plainfield man is charged with felony DUI, reckless driving and leaving the scene of the fatal crash, which authorities said occurred when Moreno turned left through oncoming traffic as he chased a car driven by a 16-year-old girl.

Motorcyclist Gerald Puglise, a 63-year-old Lombard man who was not involved in the earlier altercation, was struck and killed by Moreno’s car as it turned through the intersection at Ogden Avenue and River Road, authorities said.

Moreno was charged with DUI after a medical test found he had marijuana in his system.

DeLuca contended the road-rage clash began when Moreno was cut off in traffic by the teenager’s car, and said someone in the teen’s car later threw something at Moreno’s car.

Both vehicles stopped briefly and two male passengers from the other car confronted Moreno, with one pushing and hitting him and the other threatening to shoot him, DeLuca said.

After the car drove off again, Moreno followed to try to get a photo of the car’s license plate, DeLuca said.

Moreno wasn’t aware immediately after the crash that he had struck anyone, DeLuca said, but still stopped within a block of the crash when he saw a police car.

Prosecutors disputed Moreno’s account, contending he cut in front of the teen during the dispute, then repeatedly hit his brakes until she stopped.

There was a “verbal altercation” between passengers in the teen’s car and Moreno during that brief stop, but there was no physical contact, prosecutor Joe Lindt said during the bond hearing.

After the teen’s car pulled away, Moreno pursued her until the crash occurred less than a half mile away.

Moreno — who has a lengthy history of driving offenses, including at least seven speeding tickets — didn’t try to help Puglise after the motorcyclist skidded under his car and was struck by the rear wheels, Lindt said.

“He didn’t stop, he didn’t render aid,” Lindt said.

If convicted of the felony DUI, Moreno faces up to 14 years in prison.

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