SALEM — Just weeks after getting out of jail for driving on a suspended license for the eighth time, a Lynn man has been charged once again with illegally getting behind the wheel.
But James Irving insisted, through his lawyer, that he wasn’t driving — at least not until a Salem police officer ordered him to move the car.
Irving, 43, said he was just a passenger in the 2010 Toyota Corolla as it pulled into the closed parking lot at the Salem commuter rail station yesterday morning. He said the driver was his girlfriend, who had gotten out to see off a third person in the car, her sister.
It was only when Patrolman Gary LeBrun ordered the car to move that Irving said he somehow moved from the passenger seat to the front seat — a maneuver that would have required Irving, who according to court papers is 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighs 310 pounds, to climb over a center armrest console and gear shift, not to mention a couple of cup holders, completely unseen by the officer behind him.
“A police officer told him to do it,” Heather Ramsey, Irving’s lawyer, told a Salem District Court judge yesterday.
Salem police Lt. Conrad Prosniewski, who called LeBrun after hearing Irving’s claims in court, said that’s not what happened.
LeBrun was simply making a routine traffic stop after seeing the Toyota pull into the parking lot, which is closed due to construction of a new MBTA garage, he said.
The Toyota actually traveled several feet back onto Bridge Street, appearing to try to pull behind an adjacent building, Prosniewski said.
The driver — identified by LeBrun as Irving — said he’d left his license at home and produced an AAA membership card for identification, according to a police report. A quick check of the police computer revealed that Irving had been convicted of driving after license suspension eight times, had served jail time after five of those convictions and has no valid license, Prosniewski said.