SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

August 21, 2013

Salem man says highway OUI crash not his fault

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALEM — A serial drunk driver facing a potential seventh conviction after an accident last year that sent two women to the hospital insisted to jurors yesterday that it wasn’t his fault.

“Her car flew in front of me,” Charles E. Snow III, 53, told jurors from the witness stand in Salem Superior Court yesterday afternoon.

Snow, of 504 Loring Ave., Salem, could be sentenced to up to five years in state prison if found guilty of the charge, which was filed after the May 27, 2012, crash.

According to police and the woman whose car he struck and then pushed more than 150 yards, sideways, down Route 128/95 in Lynnfield, Snow appeared to take no action to stop after the collision. The impact spun the woman’s Volkswagen Beetle sideways, where it became attached to the plow mount on Snow’s 1989 Ford F-350.

On Monday, the woman, Bessie Broufas, described the harrowing sideways ride down the highway, a metal plow hook just inches from her head, and the entire left side of her body covered in broken glass and bleeding cuts. She and her teenage daughter were taken to Salem Hospital.

But yesterday, Snow insisted that he was the one who was badly hurt, when he “hit the brakes” after being “cut off” by Broufas.

Because he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, he said, his face slammed into the steering wheel, breaking a capped tooth and giving him a headache.

“I seen a flash of light, like the old days in football,” Snow testified.

He insisted that he tried again to brake, but that this time, the pedal was hard.

Then, once the Beetle and the truck were in the breakdown lane, Snow said, he was concerned because his truck was still partly in the travel lane, so he decided to back up.

He says he didn’t see the good Samaritan who had pulled over, before he ended up backing into her car as well. He went on to suggest that she had crashed into him.

Snow’s attorney, William Martin, asked Snow how he was feeling. “I was confused,” said Snow. “I wasn’t thinking straight after I banged my head on the steering wheel.” His hips, both of which had been replaced in the 2000s, started to hurt, as did “my head, my teeth, I had a mad headache.”

And, he complained, instead of sympathy for his injuries, the trooper who asked him to conduct field sobriety tests was “mad” and “short with me.”

That’s why he failed to mention any of his injuries, or his hip pain, when he began attempting to say the alphabet (he got to the letter F) and walk a straight line for nine steps (he got to the fourth before nearly falling, a trooper testified).

“She wasn’t listening to anything I said,” Snow testified.

He denied passing out in the state police cruiser, telling jurors that the trooper had shoved him into the backseat head first and he simply remained face down for the ride to the barracks.

And while he admitted uttering an expletive over and over at the barracks, he insisted it was only because he was being teased by others who were in custody there.

And that wasn’t him banging on his cell and singing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” either, he testified.

Snow did admit drinking earlier in the day, telling jurors that he’d had two beers at a Beverly restaurant, along with two lobster rolls and a bowl of chowder, around noon.

But, Snow insisted, he hadn’t had a drop after that, as he spent a couple of hours with friends in Salem before heading out toward Wakefield, where he’d planned to spend the rest of his day, and that night, with a woman he knew.

The jurors also heard from a defense-hired accident reconstruction expert, but she was unable to confirm what caused the accident or whether the brakes were defective.

Snow’s brother and sister also took the stand in his defense.

Closing arguments are slated for this morning.

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