SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 23, 2013

Man admits drinking before hitting child

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — MANCHESTER — A West Newbury man who, according to prosecutors, was more concerned about getting rid of evidence that he’d been drinking than about the well-being of the 10-year-old boy he’d just struck, was sentenced to two years of probation yesterday.

Michael Smith, 44, of 10 Indian Hill St. admitted consuming at least four beers before getting behind the wheel of his brother-in-law’s pickup truck on the Fourth of July in 2011.

Salem District Court prosecutor Patrick Collins said that as Smith drove along Ocean Street in Manchester-by-the-Sea, he struck the child.

Smith stopped, according to bystanders. His brother-in-law got out of the truck and went to check on the boy, and Smith drove off, traveling about a quarter-mile and driving around a corner, where he tossed four empty Corona beer bottles out of the truck. He then returned to the scene, the prosecutor said.

Smith was charged with drunken driving, second offense; driving to endanger; and leaving the scene of a personal-injury accident.

The boy suffered a severe case of “road rash,” deep abrasions from contact with the pavement, on his face, according to a victim-impact statement submitted by his mother. The boy’s summer vacation was essentially ruined, and the marks on his face were a daily reminder of what had happened, she said.

“Mr. Smith’s first instinct was to get rid of the incriminating evidence, the beer bottles, rather than tend to the child,” said Collins, who urged Judge Michael Lauranzano to find Smith guilty and impose a suspended two-year jail term. Collins noted that Smith’s record includes a prior drunken-driving case in Massachusetts and one in Vermont.

Smith’s lawyer, Ed O’Reilly, argued that the case should be continued without a finding for two years, saying Smith “feels terrible about what happened.”

O’Reilly said Smith and his wife are the parents of five children under the age of 12.

Lauranzano rejected both requests. While he agreed with the prosecution’s request for a guilty finding, he imposed two years of supervised probation on all three charges, which leaves Smith exposed to the maximum penalty on all three charges if he violates that probation.

He also ordered that Smith not drive for the first six months of the probation; his lawyer noted that Smith will, under the state’s drunken-driving law, lose his license for a year.

Smith will also be required to undergo random tests to determine whether he is using alcohol.

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