SALEM — After deliberating for almost seven hours, jurors convicted Massachusetts State Trooper Dale Jenkins on Monday of negligent operation causing serious bodily injury and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, from his involvement in a May 2014 off-duty crash in his 1965 Chevrolet Corvette coupe that critically injured a passenger.
Jenkins was acquitted of a third charge of carrying a firearm while intoxicated.
His sentencing was scheduled for Nov. 29. Jenkins remains free on $20,000 bail until then.
Jenkins, 38, of North Andover, was initially charged with drunken driving causing serious bodily injury, but the jury convicted him on the lesser charge of negligent operation.
The married father of two faces a maximum sentence of up to two years in jail on the negligent operation charge and 21/2 years behind bars on the assault and battery conviction, according to state law.
On May 3, 2014, Jenkins was driving his vintage Corvette when he crashed at 585 Sharpners Pond Road, critically injuring his passenger, Gerry Letendre, 55, a Burlington firefighter.
A resident who lives nearby testified the crash sounded like an explosion.
Letendre, who lives in North Reading, suffered a partial internal decapitation, meaning the base of his skull was severed from his spine, and other fractures and injuries, in the 12:30 a.m. crash.
After the crash, Letendre was airlifted by medical helicopter to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center where he underwent emergency surgery.
The crash happened after Jenkins invited a group of male friends and relatives to his North Andover home for a fire-pit gathering and to discuss an upcoming camping and rafting trip. Witnesses testified the men were drinking beer and passing around two whiskey bottles.
Taking the stand in his own defense last Wednesday, Jenkins testified he drank three beers and a sip of whiskey in the four-hour period prior to the crash.
Jenkins claimed he was not impaired when he and Letendre, a family friend, decided to ride in the newly refurbished Corvette he inherited.
As they drove on Sharpners Pond Road, Jenkins testified he swerved when a deer ran into the road and his sports car got “sucked into the soft shoulder,” going out of control.
He also told jurors that he carried a weapon with him at all times due to his work in the state police gang unit.
Earlier last week, Letendre also testified about the extensive injuries he suffered in the crash.
Jurors saw pictures of Letendre after undergoing emergency surgery at Beth Israel. A view of the back of Legendre’s head and neck showed a large number of stitches.
Letendre told the jurors he developed staph infections after the surgery that required additional care. He also suffered other fractures and injuries to his body, including a torn rotator cuff that is still not repaired and requires surgery.
“My range of motion will never be the same,” he said.
Letendre said he’s been unable to work as a firefighter due to the injuries he suffered.
Walking to and from the witness stand, Letendre carried a cane but did not use it for support. For his physical therapy, Letendre explained he must carry the cane with him at all times “like a safety blanket.”
After testifying, Letendre then sat in the courtroom, among family and supporters, listening to the rest of trial.
In a statement released Monday afternoon the Letendre family thanked “the jury for their service, the witnesses who came to testify, the first responders who testified and those who helped save Gerry’s life, the officers of the North Andover police department who investigated the case and testified, and the Essex and Worcester D.A.’s offices who prosecuted the case, and Assistant District Attorney John Melander, who tried the case.”
“He did an incredible job,” read the statement, issued by Letendre attorney Shawn O’Rourke.
The Letendres also thanked “our friends relatives, and the firefighters from Burlington and other communities who supported us through this process and during the trial. We are truly grateful.”
Melander, the prosecutor, is an assistant district attorney in Worcester County.
At the request of Jenkins’ defense attorney Hank Brennan, a prosecutor was brought in from outside Essex County to handle the case and avoid any ethical conflict.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.