SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

January 30, 2014

Serial drunken driver pleads not guilty to driving without license

PEABODY — One of the state’s worst serial drunken drivers pleaded not guilty yesterday to charges that he was once again driving last summer, even though his license had been revoked for life, prosecutors said.

Charles Stefanilo, 57, who lists addresses in Peabody and Medford, was charged with driving after license suspension for drunken driving as a result of a crash July 19 in Charlestown.

Stefanilo’s record of drunken driving dates to the 1970s and includes 16 convictions in Massachusetts and another in Florida, plus several other arrests that did not lead to convictions, according to court records.

His most recent drunken driving conviction came in 2005, after he crashed a rented car on a ramp from Centennial Drive to Route 128 in Peabody.

But twice since his release from prison in that case, Stefanilo, who owns a catering truck, has been caught behind the wheel.

The first incident, in 2011, led to a warning from a Salem Superior Court judge, who placed him back on probation.

Then, in July, Stefanilo was at the wheel of the canteen truck when he rear-ended a sedan in Charlestown, according to a police report. Boston police initially charged him only with driving after license suspension, not the more serious charge of driving after suspension for drunken driving, which carries a minimum mandatory sentence of a year in jail.

Suffolk County prosecutors quickly realized the error and filed for a new complaint on the more serious charge.

Jake Wark, a spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Dan Conley, said yesterday that prosecutors also asked for a judge’s order that Stefanilo not drive while the charge is pending. That’s on top of his lifetime license revocation.

That means that if he is caught, it is not only a new criminal offense but also a violation of the terms of his release, which could then be revoked.

Because Stefanilo appeared in court in response to a summons and not after an arrest, he was not ordered held on bail.

A pretrial hearing is scheduled for March 5.

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

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