SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

November 8, 2012

Teen gets 30 days for drunken crash

BY JULIE MANGANIS STAFF WRITER
The Salem News

---- — PEABODY — A Peabody teenager will serve 30 days in jail next month after admitting yesterday that he was drunk and speeding at more than 100 mph when he crashed into a West Peabody home last year.

Robert Habeeb Jr., 19, of 22 Perley Ave. pleaded guilty to charges of drunken driving and driving to endanger during a hearing yesterday in Peabody District Court, where prosecutors were seeking at least a year behind bars and another 18 months of suspended jail time for the college student.

Instead, Judge Richard Mori imposed a 21/2-year term, but suspended all but 30 days of the sentence, which Habeeb will begin serving on Dec. 17.

Mori also imposed a three-year term of probation, with conditions that include a 14-day in-patient alcohol program, payment of $1,448 in restitution and regular reporting to a probation officer.

The judge’s sentence, while offering less committed jail time than prosecutors had sought, was harsher than the disposition requested by Habeeb and his lawyer: a one-year continuation without a finding and a year of probation. That would have spared Habeeb a record of conviction.

Habeeb also will lose his driver’s license for 210 days.

Prosecutor Janelle Amadon cited the high blood alcohol level — 0.20, according to a blood test — and high speed — 109 mph, as determined by the car’s “black box” — in recommending that Habeeb serve one full year in jail.

The crash occurred on Dec. 11, after Habeeb left a house party on Elizabeth Lane.

The 2001 Chevrolet Monte Carlo got up to 109 mph five seconds before it struck a stone wall, went airborne and crashed into a Herrick Road home, according to data retrieved from the car.

Both the car and the house caught fire, and Habeeb was trapped in the wreckage, potentially endangering the firefighters who had to rescue him, prosecutors said during his arraignment in January.

Habeeb was rushed to a Boston hospital, where a blood sample was taken and tested. The amount of alcohol was 21/2 times the legal limit for a person 21 or older and 10 times the amount that would cause a younger person to lose his license.

Police Lt. Scott Richards later learned that Habeeb had been at a house party before the crash, where the host admitted that another friend had brought two 30-pack cases of Bud Light beer, according to a police report.

A witness later confirmed to police that he had seen Habeeb drinking, and paramedics said they smelled alcohol on Habeeb at the scene. When they asked, he admitted drinking.

But in the days after the crash, before his son was charged, Habeeb’s father gave interviews to the press in which he insisted that his son had simply fallen asleep at the wheel. It wasn’t until Habeeb’s arraignment the following month that the role of alcohol in the crash became known to the public.

Habeeb had also been arrested at an underage drinking party in Topsfield two months before the crash, and prosecutors at the time expressed concern that he was in need of alcohol treatment.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.