, Salem, MA

December 31, 2013

Drunken boater jailed over positive alcohol test


---- — SALEM — A Salem man who ran his boat onto a large rock in Salem Harbor while drunk last year is heading back to jail for six months after testing positive for alcohol for a fourth time.

Bradford Billings Smith, 45, of Memorial Drive, insisted through his attorney that he’d had nothing to drink before he was required to submit a series of breath samples into a device called a Sobrietor earlier this month.

But the machine showed blood alcohol levels ranging from .039 to .043 late on the night of Dec. 16 and into Dec. 17, a probation officer told Salem District Court Judge Matthew Machera.

And given that it was the fourth time Smith had been found to test positive for alcohol while on probation, probation officer Jeff Dowd recommended that Smith’s probation be revoked and that he be returned to finish out the remaining balance of his sentence, six more months.

“We’ve done 90 days, then another 90 days,” said Dowd during yesterday’s hearing. “Probation feels this defendant has been given more than enough chances, and we are recommending that his probation be revoked.”

Mark Barry, Smith’s attorney, said his client attended two Alcoholics Anonymous meetings on the night of the 16th, and he suggested that it makes no sense that he would then choose to drink after that.

Barry said that after learning that the tests were positive, Smith went to Salem Hospital, hoping to get an independent blood test. He was arrested before that could happen, however, because the probation department immediately got a warrant after the positive test.

Barry has repeatedly raised questions about the reliability of the Sobrietor device. He argued that there is anecdotal evidence that the machines are not designed to distinguish between ethanol and other types of alcohols that are either consumed or produced by the body.

But Machera was not convinced, finding that Smith’s most recent test results should send him back to custody.

Smith was convicted of boating while under the influence in May as a result of the July 2012 boat crash on Lobster Rock.

After his arrest, he spent six months in a treatment program but tested positive for alcohol shortly after his release and was jailed for about three months before his trial. He then spent another three months in custody after a previous probation violation.

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