SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

August 20, 2013

Trial starts in Salem for OUI suspect

Witness describes crash, being pushed down highway by truck

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALEM — Covered in blood and shattered glass, a large metal hook just inches from her head as she was pushed sideways down Route 128 in her tiny Volkswagen Beetle, Bessie Broufas was in a state of panic.

“I didn’t think we were going to survive, to be honest with you,” Broufas, a schoolteacher from Lynn, told jurors yesterday.

Broufas was the first witness called in the case against Charles Snow of Salem, charged with drunken driving on the Sunday afternoon during Memorial Day weekend last year.

If convicted by the Salem Superior Court jury, it will be the seventh time Snow, 53, has been found guilty of drunken driving in Massachusetts; court records indicate there are two other convictions in New Hampshire.

Jurors, who have been instructed not to read about the case, won’t hear any of that, however, since details of prior convictions, dating back to 1977, would be considered prejudicial.

They also won’t hear that, according to a police report, Snow repeatedly uttered the words “I’m (expletive)” when offered a Breathalyzer. Because that was deemed a refusal by police, that is also inadmissible as evidence in the trial.

Instead, jurors will have to rely on witness accounts, including that of Broufas, who was driving home to Lynn with her teenage daughter after dropping off her daughter’s friend in Beverly that afternoon, May 27, 2012, at around 4 p.m.

They had just passed the interchange with Route 1 and were in the right-hand lane, preparing to take the exit for Walnut Street in Lynnfield, when a 1989 Ford pickup truck struck them from behind, in the left rear quarter, prosecutor Kel Forlizzi told jurors in her opening statement.

The impact spun Broufas’ Beetle to the left, she testified. The plow mount on the front of the truck crushed the side of the car, shattered the windows and then held the car in place as the Ford veered back and forth between the first and second lanes, pushing the Beetle sideways.

Broufas tilted her head to demonstrate to the jury how she had to lean away to avoid contact with the large hook just inches from her head.

It had all happened so fast, it took a moment for her to realize that “I was no longer driving. I had no control.”

Broufas said she had no idea how far her car was pushed. “It seemed like a long time,” she told the jury.

Another witness, Anthony Conran, an off-duty Waltham police officer, testified that the pickup pushed the Beetle at least 150 yards before coming to a stop in the breakdown lane.

Before the inside of her car filled with smoke, Broufas said she got a glimpse of the driver of the pickup. His head was tilted back, his face expressionless, she said.

It seemed to the witnesses as if Snow made no attempt to stop.

Eventually, the two vehicles came to a stop in the breakdown lane. “All the windows were shattered, the tires were blown,” Broufas said. “It was very smoky.” She had to crawl out through the passenger side.

“I had glass all over me, in my skin, my face, my hair. I was bleeding all over the left side of my body,” she told jurors.

Both she and her daughter, badly shaken by the crash, were taken to Salem Hospital.

“I was panicking,” she said.

As she was waiting for an ambulance, Snow decided to back up.

Another driver had stopped to help. She was parked more than 20 feet away, but Snow, according to the witnesses, backed into that car as well.

Conran, who had just finished working on his boat in Danvers that afternoon, was on his way home when he came upon the crash. He told jurors that moments earlier, he had seen Snow’s truck barrel across two lanes as it entered the highway.

When Snow got out of his truck, he was “very disoriented,” Conran recalled, describing how at one point, Snow dropped a cup of coffee on the ground, then struggled to pick it up, nearly falling into traffic.

But Snow’s attorney, William Martin, told jurors that his client wasn’t drunk that day.

He suggested that the accident was caused by Broufas, who, he argued, may have “cut off” Snow. “Who hit who? It’s not really clear,” Martin told jurors.

The slurring described by witnesses? Perhaps that was due to Snow hitting his face on his steering wheel, knocking a cap off a tooth, the lawyer suggested.

Why didn’t he hit the brakes? Martin suggested that perhaps the brakes on the 23-year-old truck weren’t working properly.

And when he was unable to complete field sobriety tests?

“He was mad, scared, shaken up, in pain,” Martin suggested.

If convicted, Snow faces up to five years in prison, the maximum penalty for anyone convicted of a fifth or subsequent offense.

Last fall, shortly after his indictment, a Salem Superior Court judge agreed to set bail for Snow, on the condition that he wear an electronic monitoring bracelet and post a cash bail. But his family was unable to put together the $10,000 bail, and Snow has remained in custody.

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