SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

June 23, 2014

Judge holds repeat drunken driver who gave brother's name

SALEM — Nearly four years ago, facing what prosecutors allege was a potential fifth drunken-driving conviction, Joseph Viarella gave police his brother’s name and Social Security number, prosecutors say.

Two days later, in Newburyport District Court, he allegedly did it again, leaving his brother, Christopher Viarella, a Revere business owner, with a record of drunken driving — something Christopher discovered when he received a notice from the Registry of Motor Vehicles suspending his license.

Fast forward to Monday, when Christopher Viarella sat in a Salem Superior Court gallery to show his support for his older brother’s request to be released from custody.

“They’ve since reconciled,” said defense lawyer Michael Cioffi, who also told Judge David Lowy that Joseph Viarella has a job waiting for him at the family’s marine repair business if he is released.

Viarella, 57, has been held without bail since his arrest in April on a warrant issued in 2010, shortly after the discovery that he’d given his brother’s name. Yesterday, the judge ruled that Viarella is a danger to the public and will remain in custody until trial.

A grand jury indicted him last month on charges that include fifth-offense drunken driving, perjury, witness intimidation and driving after license suspension. (At the time of the 2010 stop, Viarella’s license was under a 10-year suspension.)

Prosecutor Kel Forlizzi cited a record of drunken driving that dates back to 1981.

With four priors, three in Massachusetts and one in Maine, under his belt, Viarella knew the potential penalties he faced — up to five years on the drunken-driving charge, and more time for driving after his license was suspended for drunken driving — when he was stopped by police on Route 1 on Sept. 18, 2010, the prosecutor said.

After making bail on what police believed was a first offense, he showed up at the courthouse two days later for arraignment and resolved the case with a continuation without a finding, Forlizzi said. That triggered a 45-day license suspension — for Viarella’s brother.

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