BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — SALEM — A Salem man who collided with and then pushed a Volkswagen Beetle sideways more than 150 yards down Route 128 south in Lynnfield last year was found guilty yesterday of drunken driving.
But Charles E. Snow III, 53, will now have a chance to dispute whether it’s his seventh drunken-driving conviction. He’s asked for a trial, where prosecutors will have to provide evidence of his previous convictions in Massachusetts, dating to 1977, before a judge sentences him to up to five years in state prison.
That trial and sentencing are scheduled for Sept. 18. Judge Timothy Feeley revoked Snow’s bail in the case and ordered that he be held without bail at Middleton Jail pending sentencing. It took the jury about four hours to conclude that Snow was drunk at the wheel of a 1989 Ford F-350 truck equipped with a plow mount on the afternoon of May 27, 2012, Memorial Day weekend.
Lynn teacher Bessie Broufas testified that she was in the first lane, about to take Exit 43 toward Lynnfield, when she felt her car being struck and then realized, in horror, that she was being pushed down the interstate by Snow’s truck. Her car had become attached to the plow mount, and a large metal hook came to rest just inches from her head.
Broufas, who was taken to the hospital covered in cuts and broken glass, testified that she feared for her life and that of her teenage daughter. “I didn’t think we were going to survive,” she told jurors on Monday.
Snow, who also took the stand, blamed Broufas for the collision, claiming “her car flew in front of me.”
William Martin, a public defender who represented the indigent Snow, tried to convince jurors in his closing argument that his client was the victim of “jaded” law enforcement officers who “jumped to conclusions” about the poorly dressed and inarticulate Snow, a house painter who had been working on a ladder all morning.
Snow “is not the most polite, endearing person,” Martin acknowledged. But he “felt like he was being railroaded,” said the attorney.
Snow testified that he’d had just two beers, hours earlier, with a hearty lunch of lobster rolls and clam chowder.
But prosecutor Kel Forlizzi suggested that had Snow simply had two beers, it would be unlikely that he would still reek of alcohol four hours later, as witnesses testified. Forlizzi pointed out to jurors that Snow not only ate lunch but then smoked several cigarettes and drank at least part of an iced coffee.
“Use your common sense,” Forlizzi asked the jury.
She reminded jurors of the testimony of three eyewitnesses to the accident and its aftermath, as well as that of Broufas, and the state trooper, Carolyn Fountain, who described Snow as “glassy eyed” and unable to recite the alphabet or take nine steps in a straight line without nearly falling halfway through the sobriety test.
And though Snow testified this week that he had broken teeth and a head injury from striking the steering wheel, Forlizzi said he made no mention of that when asked by the trooper if he was hurt.
“He was mumbling,” Forlizzi told jurors.
Later, at the police station, he was argumentative. While his lawyer suggested that Snow was simply angry about being “needled” by others in custody at the state police barracks, Forlizzi suggested it was further evidence of his level of intoxication.
Fountain testified that Snow said “I’m (expletive),” at least 15 times during booking, then banged on his cell and sang “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”
Jurors were not told of Snow’s history of prior drunken-driving convictions, because Massachusetts courts have held that such information would be prejudicial against a defendant.
They were also not told that when offered a Breathalyzer test, Snow again stated, “I’m (expletive).”
About halfway through their deliberations, jurors sent the judge a list of questions, including one asking if there were Breathalyzer results.
Feeley, in a written response, told them that they were allowed to consider only evidence presented to them during the trial.
Under Massachusetts law, jurors are not allowed to be told if a suspect refused a Breathalyzer or blood alcohol test, because that would be considered a violation of his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.