SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

August 1, 2013

School official gets probation in DUI crash

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — DANVERS — A Georgetown woman and Boston public school official will spend two years on probation and has lost her driver’s license for three months after admitting to driving drunk before an accident last Wednesday.

Maureen Harris, 60, of 81 W. Main St., admitted yesterday in Salem District Court that prosecutors had sufficient evidence to convict her of drunken driving.

While a typical first-time drunken-driving case is continued without a finding for a year, Judge Allen Swan doubled the length of time the case will remain open, citing the accident that led to Harris’ arrest.

Police were called to the ramp from Route 95 north to Route 114 east in Danvers shortly before 8 p.m., where a state police trooper found both Harris and a driver she had rear-ended in Harris’ 2013 Lexus.

The other driver, Joyanne Edwards, 22, was leaning into the passenger side of the car, holding the gear shift knob to prevent Harris from driving away.

Edwards told police that as she traveled down the ramp, she saw Harris’ Lexus weaving back and forth behind her. The Lexus then ran into the rear of Edwards’ Chevrolet Impala. Both cars received minor damage, and no one was injured, according to police.

When the trooper asked what happened, Harris responded, “Oh, nothing, I’m all set,” as the two women continued struggling over the gear shift, prosecutor Lars Trautman told the judge.

Trautman told the judge that the trooper noticed a Gatorade bottle in the center console of the Lexus. Both the bottle and Harris smelled of alcohol, the prosecutor noted.

Harris denied drinking. “I’ve not had one drink,” she said, according to the police report.

Asked about the Gatorade bottle, she responded, “Oh, that? Well, maybe I had a little vodka,” Trautman, citing the trooper’s report, said.

An “extremely unsteady” Harris failed field sobriety tests and had difficulty understanding her Miranda warning, the trooper wrote.

Harris also told the trooper that she has a “very important job in Boston, and she was sure something could be done,” Trautman told the judge.

Harris is the director of extended learning services for the Boston Public Schools.

An initial breath sample tested at the state police barracks showed a blood alcohol level of .28, but the machine did not register subsequent samples, and the test was deemed invalid.

During her hearing yesterday, defense lawyer Steven Epstein argued for a shorter continuation without a finding, noting that Harris has no prior record.

Swan, in addition to imposing the two-year probation period, ordered Harris to undergo an alcohol evaluation and treatment if necessary, as well as attend an alcohol safety awareness program. If she complies with those conditions and stays out of further trouble, the charge will be dismissed.

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