BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — MIDDLETON — On the night of his arrest, following a high-speed cat-and-mouse game with police that left a deputy sheriff injured last February, Paul Tierney told police, “I can’t go back to jail.”
Yesterday, Tierney, 34, of Wilmington, knew he would be going back to jail for what prosecutors allege — and for what he admitted, albeit briefly — was his third drunken-driving arrest.
But when a judge told him just how long he’d be sent away — three years — Tierney balked, took back his guilty plea, and through his attorney, demanded a trial.
“Good luck with that,” said Salem District Court Judge Michael Lauranzano.
“He was a menace that night,” Lauranzano said. “Somebody could have been badly injured or killed, and there’s no excuse.”
Lauranzano called the recommendation of prosecutors for three years in jail, followed by a lengthy period of probation, “immensely reasonable” and expressed surprise that Tierney was not indicted over the incidents that night, which began with a stop on Interstate 95.
Prosecutor Alex Grimes read at length from police reports recounting what happened in the early morning hours of Feb. 27.
Tierney, who told police he was on his way home from a rock concert in Hampton, N.H., was first stopped by state police on Route 95. But he allegedly took off, losing the trooper in the darkness.
Then, Grimes said, he was spotted on the grounds of the Middleton Jail around 2 a.m., where correctional officers doing a patrol saw the red Kia SUV approaching the main gate. One sheriff’s deputy tried to stop him, but Tierney accelerated toward him, striking him in the leg, causing bruising and swelling, Grimes said.
Police believe Tierney had no idea where he was at the time.
“It’s likely he was lost and not in possession of his faculties to figure out where he was,” Grimes said.
Tierney then sped down Route 62, pursued by state and local police, Grimes said. The pursuit continued onto Route 114, he said, and reached speeds of 80 to 90 miles an hour, as Tierney’s Kia blew past other drivers by veering into the oncoming lane.
From there, the Kia went onto Route 125, where North Andover police had put out “stop sticks” that deflated the tires. Still, Grimes said, Tierney raced on, driving on four flats until he could drive no farther.
Then, Grimes said, he bailed out of the Kia and ran away on foot, through a yard. Police caught up with him and, after a struggle, took him into custody.
Police found an empty box that once held 18 cans of Miller Lite beer and numerous empty cans scattered around the Kia, as well as one that was about half full.
At the Danvers state police barracks, Tierney failed a series of field sobriety tests and refused a Breathalyzer test, police said. But troopers noted that he was “glassy-eyed” and unsteady on his feet.
Tierney told troopers, “I’m not a bad guy,” mentioning that he had custody of a 3-year-old daughter. He said he could not return to jail.
Grimes called the case “truly egregious” and said Tierney’s “brazen disregard for safety” and his criminal record, which includes prior drunken-driving convictions in 2006 and 2008, warrants three years in jail.
Will Korman, who represents Tierney, argued for a year in custody, suggesting that the nearly three months Tierney spent in custody after his arrest and his home confinement since last June have been a wake-up call for him.
But Lauranzano disagreed, saying a year was not enough time. After reviewing his notes from an earlier hearing in the case, the judge told Korman that he agreed with Grimes.
“We’re going to need a trial date,” Korman responded.
In addition to drunken driving, Tierney faces charges of driving without a license as a habitual traffic offender, leaving the scene of a personal injury accident, and a string of moving violations.
The judge scheduled a trial for April 7.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.