Motorcycle rider seeks ruling in felony case

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AUBURN – A local man is seeking to have prosecutors prove that he knew the passenger who fell off the back of his motorcycle last year was hurt and that her injuries were severe.

John Ferland, 32, of 69 Marshall Ave. is expected to go to trial next month on a felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident.

The woman who fell from his motorcycle, Irene Douglas, 36, of Rosedale St., Lewiston, was found bleeding and with head injuries about 1 a.m. on July 24, according to a police report. She wasn’t wearing a helmet.

She died as a result of her injuries less than a month after the accident.

Ferland filed a motion in Androscoggin County Superior Court asking that the judge determine whether prosecutors must prove Ferland knew the seriousness of Douglas’ injuries. Only if he “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly” failed to stop and try to help her and she suffered serious injury or died can Ferland be charged with a felony, wrote Leonard Sharon in a motion on behalf of his client. Otherwise, Maine law states that the charge of leaving the scene of an accident involving minor personal injury or property damage without trying to help the injured person is a misdemeanor.

Sharon said in a phone interview that he is seeking a hearing on his motion before the trial. If a judge were to rule that the state must prove knowledge of the seriousness of Douglas’ injuries, Sharon said he would need additional time to assemble experts who would testify that Ferland wouldn’t have necessarily known she was seriously hurt.

Ferland – and a friend following on his motorcycle – apparently left the woman after she fell while Ferland was rounding a sharp curve on Fairview Avenue on his 2004 Harley-Davidson. A charge of leaving the scene lodged against the other man was later dropped.

On the night of the accident, Douglas got a ride from Ferland at the then-Midnight Blues Club at Main and Court streets in the city’s downtown. The club has since closed.

Ferland told police that Douglas “appeared to fall asleep and became very sloppy” on the back of his bike. He later pleaded not guilty to the charge after an Androscoggin County grand jury handed up the felony indictment. Bail was set at $2,000 unsecured bond. A trial was set for Aug. 7.

Sharon said Ferland left the scene because he thought the woman was only drunk and was being tended to by a resident on the street where she fell.

The second rider, Scott Soulard of Old Orchard Beach, also was charged initially with a class C felony for leaving the scene of the accident. He was never indicted.

Soulard laid his bike down in order to avoid hitting Douglas when she fell off Ferland’s bike, police reports said. Soulard had left his name and contact information with the nearby resident.

Both men were Air National Guard members.

Sharon has said Ferland was involved in a tragic accident, not a criminal act. Ferland said he had received assurances before he left the scene that the fallen woman would receive any medical attention she might need, according to statements made by Ferland and Soulard as well as police reports, Sharon said.

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