, Salem, MA

June 13, 2013

Drunken joyrider gets prison sentence

Salem man to serve eight to nine years, lose license


---- — PEABODY — A serial drunken-driving car thief from Salem will serve eight to nine years in state prison after pleading guilty to his two latest joyrides, one of which will also lead to the lifetime loss of his license.

Peter Nawn, 47, pleaded guilty yesterday afternoon in Salem Superior Court to two separate incidents in a four-month span in 2011 — shortly after his release from prison for another drunken joyride in a stolen car.

Judge David Lowy suggested that Nawn use his time behind bars, to be followed by 10 years of probation, to get counseling to figure out why he drinks and how to stop.

“When you get out, you’re not going to have a driver’s license for the rest of your life,” Lowy told Nawn. “You’ve let alcohol define you.”

Nawn had recently completed a five- to seven-year term for drunken driving in a stolen car in Newburyport in 2005 when, on the morning of June 23, 2011, he showed up at a Meineke muffler shop on the Lynnway and hopped into a gray Cadillac that was there for service.

Prosecutor Karen Hopwood said the employee had left the Caddy running for just a moment while he went inside the business. A worker from the shop chased the stolen car down the Lynnway through rush-hour traffic, but lost sight of it.

At the intersection of Union and Chestnut streets, Nawn collided with a truck. He continued driving, then eventually left the car behind Lynn English High School and ran away on foot.

A state trooper spotted him a short while later.

Just a few months later, while he was out on bail in that case, Nawn was caught on surveillance video, shimmying under a fence at Malia’s Towing in Peabody on Oct. 18, 2011, just before 11 p.m.

Fifteen minutes later, he is seen on the video climbing into a Toyota Scion and driving the vehicle through the locked gate, damaging both the gate and the front end of the car, said the prosecutor.

Nawn abandoned the heavily damaged car, its hood nearly completely upright, a short distance away. He was found by police hiding nearby, a nearly empty bottle of vodka in his hand.

Nawn’s record of drunken driving includes two convictions in 1997, another in 1999 and the 2005 Newburyport incident, making yesterday’s guilty finding his fifth.

His criminal record dates back more than two decades.

In addition to fifth-offense drunken driving, Nawn pleaded guilty to two counts of larceny of a motor vehicle, leaving the scene of a property damage accident, breaking and entering, and malicious destruction of property.

The sentence was the result of plea negotiations between Hopwood and defense lawyer Christopher Norris, who said alcohol has played a role in Nawn’s life since childhood, and nothing has worked to stop his self-destructive habit.

“Mr. Nawn realizes when he ingests alcohol, the criminal justice system and penalties are not far behind,” Norris said.

As part of the plea negotiations, charges of being a habitual offender were dropped in exchange for the guilty pleas.

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