SALEM — A judge has lifted a curfew and GPS requirement for a Saugus man awaiting trial on drunken driving and other charges arising out of a 2019 wrong-way crash on Route 1.
Thomas Neirinckx, 23, of 269 Central St., Saugus, was allegedly three times over the legal limit on the evening of Aug. 11, 2019, when he drove the wrong way in the northbound lanes of Route 1 through Peabody and Lynnfield, before colliding with a car driven by an elderly couple, state police said in their report.
In addition to drunken driving causing serious bodily injury, he's facing charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, leaving the scene of a crash involving personal injury and property damage, and resisting arrest.
Salem Superior Court Judge Salim Tabit acknowledged, "I can think of few things more dangerous" than someone who drives drunk. But by the end of the hearing, Tabit had agreed to drop the curfew and GPS, saying the law requires him to impose only the least restrictive conditions to ensure the safety of the public.
A lawyer for the defendant had argued that Nierinckx was unable to take overtime shifts because of the curfew.
The elderly couple suffered severe injuries, prosecutor Michael Sheehan told a Salem Superior Court judge on Monday, and one spent a significant period of time in a rehabilitation hospital. A tire from Nierinckx's pickup truck then struck another vehicle, containing a woman and her children. They were not injured.
Unable to start the truck back up after the crash, Nierinckx ran across the highway and into the woods behind a car dealership, where state police caught up with him. He was arrested after a brief struggle. Police described him in their report as being more concerned about where to pick up his damaged truck, which had been towed, and where his cigarettes had gone, than with the condition of the victims.
But on Monday, Nierinckx's attorney, Desmond FitzGerald, said he has been sending money from his paycheck as an apprentice plumber to the victims, through his office. FitzGerald said the release conditions, first imposed by a Peabody District Court judge and then set again earlier this month following Nierinckx's indictment and arraignment in Superior Court, were not necessary and were hindering his client's ability to accept overtime shifts.
The release terms originally included house arrest, prosecutor Michael Sheehan told the judge. They were modified to allow Nierinckx to work, with a curfew between 5 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Sheehan said that while Nierinckx hadn't violated any of the conditions since they were first imposed, he believes they remain necessary to keep the public safe.
He said the victims still struggle daily to recover and rebuild their lives.
Sheehan said he had also not been able to confirm what FitzGerald said about Nierinckx sending money to the victims, but noted that is not relevant to whether he poses a danger. He urged the judge to keep the existing conditions in place.
FitzGerald, who repeatedly referred to his client as a "boy," said Nierinckx "made a bad choice" and spent three days in jail following his arrest. He told Tabit that his client has passed 1,916 alcohol tests, which are given remotely three times a day.
"Terrible things happened," FitzGerald said. "That poor couple suffered terrible consequences."
The payments, he said, were being sent to his office and then forwarded to the victims. Nierinckx is under a court order to have no contact with the couple or any of the witnesses in the case.
FitzGerald told Tabit that restricting Nierinckx's ability to work overtime was "unfair and unconscionable" and would cause the elderly victims to suffer.
Tabit rejected the argument that Nierinckx is a "boy," saying "individuals younger than him are dying on the battlefield."
Nierinckx will still be required to wear an alcohol monitor and submit to testing. The judge also ordered that he have no contact with the victims and witnesses, maintain his current employment, and not use any drugs, including marijuana, unless he has a medical marijuana card.
A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for Sept. 23.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis.