SALEM — For more than a year, Charles E. Snow III, a man with a record of seven prior drunken-driving convictions, has denied responsibility for driving drunk and crashing into another vehicle on Route 128, pushing a mother and daughter 150 yards, sideways, down the highway.
He took the stand during his trial in August and claimed that the other driver had cut him off. He denied being so drunk he passed out in the back seat of a state police cruiser, or singing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” loudly in his holding cell.
A jury convicted him of drunken driving.
Yesterday, he forced the court to hold a second full jury trial on the issue of how many of those prior drunken-driving convictions could be held against him.
It took a Salem Superior Court jury less than 20 minutes to decide his Memorial Day weekend, 2012, arrest in Lynnfield was at least his fifth.
Then Snow, 54, of Salem, became remorseful.
“I’d like to apologize to the people that was in the accident,” Snow told Judge Timothy Feeley yesterday afternoon. “I was really scared at the time. I was quite shook up. My heart goes out to those people. It must have scared the crap out of them.”
He acknowledged that “alcohol has been a problem for me for many years. I thought I had it more or less beat.”
Despite Snow’s promises never to drink again, Feeley sentenced him to four to five years in state prison and fined him $2,000.
Feeley said it’s hard to imagine that the two women in the Volkswagen Beetle weren’t more seriously hurt after being pushed down the highway by Snow’s Ford F-350 truck and then into the shoulder of the road.
A Lynn schoolteacher testified during the trial that the plow mount hook from Snow’s truck was just inches from her head, and though she was covered in shattered glass, she received only cuts.