BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — SALEM — A Stoneham man admitted yesterday that he was drunk when he showed up at a Salem school and a day care center to pick up his children on Jan. 18.
Thomas Gallant, 46, received a suspended 18-month jail term and two years of probation, as well as a two-year license suspension, after pleading guilty during a hearing in Salem District Court to second-offense drunken driving. His lawyer called the case “an incredible lack of judgment.”
Prosecutors, however, had asked Judge Dominic Paratore to send Gallant to jail for at least 60 days, calling the case “egregious.”
But for the intervention of staff at Horace Mann School, where Gallant showed up around 1:30 p.m. that Friday afternoon but was turned away, and at the Kiddie Koop child care center on Foster Street, where police caught up with him a half-hour later, he might have endangered not only his children but the public, a prosecutor said.
Staff at both places refused to let him take his children, and both called the police, telling them that Gallant smelled of alcohol and was slurring his words.
According to a police report, an employee of the child care center pointed out the white Honda sedan to police. Officers, concerned that there could be a child in the car, stopped the vehicle.
Gallant admitted to police, “Yes, I had two beers. I was there to pick up my daughter, but they wouldn’t let me take her.”
He failed several field sobriety tests and couldn’t complete a Breathalyzer test.
Gallant has a prior drunken-driving conviction, in 2000 in Chelsea. But his lawyer, Kevin Chapman, argued that the prior case was so old that it shouldn’t be held against him and urged Paratore to impose a sentence that is typically given to first offenders instead of the more serious second-offender sentence.
“He shouldn’t have had two beers,” Chapman told the judge.
But the judge, while not sending Gallant to jail, warned him that if he gets into further trouble or violates the conditions of his probation, which includes no alcohol use, he could go to jail for up to 18 months.
Gallant will also have to continue to use a Sobrietor device that requires him to submit samples of his breath at random from a machine in his home.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.