PORTLAND — The state’s highest court on Thursday upheld a lower court’s conviction of a Massachusetts man who left the scene of a fatal accident he caused when wooden beams fell off a trailer he was hauling in 2008 between Kingfield and Farmington.
Domingos Medeiros, who was 50 years old last summer when he was sentenced to two years in prison with all but 90 days suspended, appealed his conviction to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court last month.
Through his attorney, Gerald F. Petruccelli of Portland, Medeiros challenged his conviction, saying he couldn’t be guilty of leaving the scene of the accident because he wasn’t at the scene at the time the accident happened.
Medeiros was hauling lumber from Kingfield to Massachusetts on Jan. 16, 2008. Some of the 17-foot beams dislodged from the trailer towed by his truck and struck three cars on Route 27. Several of the beams — 4 inches by a foot wide — smashed through the windshield of one of the cars, killing its driver, Stephen McKenney, 55, of New Portland. Another car’s engine was impaled by the wood, which shattered the car’s windshield. Its passengers sustained minor injuries. The underside of a third vehicle was damaged by the beams.
A Franklin County grand jury indicted Medeiros on a charge of leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in serious bodily injury or death, a Class C felony.
After a two-day bench trial, a judge found Medeiros guilty of the crime. She found that because he returned to the scene, knowing he had lost a dangerous number of beams, encountered the roadblock and emergency vehicles and was told by people there about the accident involving “a casualty,” he knew he had been involved in an accident that required him to leave his information and offer assistance.
The judge also found that because Medeiros had actual knowledge that he was involved in a serious accident, he recklessly failed to comply with the mandates of state law, which elevated his crime from a misdemeanor to a felony.
He was sentenced to 18 months in prison, with all but 90 days suspended. He also was given two years of probation.
He appealed his conviction.
Petruccelli argued that his client didn’t realize the lumber had fallen off at that time. He only noticed the lumber missing after he stopping at a restaurant in Farmington. He retraced his route until he came to a roadblock where, he was told, there had been a three-car accident. He was ordered by a firefighter at the roadblock to leave, which he did. Only after returning to Massachusetts did he learn about the cause of the accident, Petruccelli told the court.
The high court upheld the findings of the trial judge, including her discrediting of Medeiros’ testimony that he didn’t know he had been involved in a serious accident when he came upon the roadblock.
“The evidence fully supports the trial court’s finding that by leaving the roadblock and by failing to alert the authorities about the lost beams, Medeiros consciously disregarded the risk that his actions would violate the requirements” under state law. “This conscious disregard is demonstrated by Medeiros taking time to think at the roadblock, believing the beams were still on the road and had caused the accident, before ultimately deciding to leave the area, unidentified,” the high court concluded.
“Contrary to Medeiros’ contention that he was forced to leave by the emergency personnel at the roadblock, nothing prevented Medeiros from informing the emergency workers that he believed he was involved in the accident and that he had important information about the beams lost on the road.”