BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — DANVERS — For 63 years, Phillip Charles Thompson avoided any trouble with the law.
Then, he was arrested twice in the span of a week, charged both times with drunken driving after crashes, first in Danvers and then in Gloucester, where he lives.
It’s an unexpected turn of events in the life of the Vietnam-era Air Force veteran and longtime small-business owner, who recently retired, said his attorney, Hal Rush-Lloyd, during a hearing yesterday in Salem District Court.
Thompson, 63, had just completed an alcohol treatment program.
Though court papers list his address as 24 Riggs Point Road, Gloucester, he told a judge that he now lives in a room above the Crow’s Nest bar on Main Street in Gloucester.
He said yesterday that was where he had his last drink — in his room, not the bar — before heading out onto Route 128 south on the evening of March 12.
Shortly after 5 p.m., state police began receiving numerous calls about an erratic driver weaving in rush-hour traffic, eventually rear-ending another driver, prosecutor Lars Trautman told Judge James Barretto.
The woman told police that as she tried to exchange information with Thompson, she noticed his hands were shaking badly, said the prosecutor.
A state trooper also noticed that Thompson appeared to be drunk and spotted a half-empty bottle of Absolut vodka in the car.
Thompson failed field sobriety tests and later registered a .12 blood alcohol level on a Breathalyzer.
Trautman said Thompson told the troopers he’d just been released from an alcohol treatment program and wanted to return.
But he hadn’t been admitted when, exactly a week later, on Wednesday afternoon, he was involved in a second crash, near Papa Gino’s on Main Street in Gloucester.
As in the Danvers crash, no injuries were reported. But police there charged him not only with drunken driving but with driving while his license was suspended and driving to endanger. That case is still pending.
Yesterday, Thompson admitted to sufficient facts in the Danvers crash.
Though it was a first offense, Trautman urged a 60-day jail term, noting the potential danger to the public.
“The commonwealth has concerns about public safety,” Trautman argued.
Rush-Lloyd urged the judge to put Thompson on probation so he can enter a four-month treatment program offered by the Veterans Administration.
Barretto found Thompson guilty and imposed 18 months of probation, with conditions that include the VA program and no use of alcohol. He also ordered a 90-day loss of license for Thompson.
Reporter James Niedzinski contributed to this report.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.