EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 24, 2012

Stern warning to driver in fatal crash

Says jail is next if fatal crash driver gets behind wheel again

By Mike LaBella mlabella@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — HAVERHILL — Joseph Pagliarulo stood before a judge yesterday to explain why he was behind the wheel of his pickup truck after being ordered not to drive.

Haverhill District Court Judge Stephen Abany, who took Pagliarulo’s license away for five years after he pleaded guilty last month to hitting a Groveland woman with his pickup truck and killing her, told Pagliarulo he was at risk of violating the terms of his probation.

Pagliarulo spent four days in jail, from Friday until yesterday, because a judge ruled last week he may have violated his probation by driving a vehicle in the driveway of his home.

”You spent four days in jail, you could spend a year in jail... that’s what’s hanging over your head,” Abany said. “I will assume it was a mistake on your part.”

Abany said that because the victim’s family did not want to see Pagliarulo go to jail, he received a “very compassionate deal’’ after killing the woman — a one-year suspended jail sentence and suspension of his driver’s license for five years.

”I didn’t expect you to drive anywhere,” Abany told Pagliarulo at yesterday’s hearing to determine if he violated the terms of his probation. “Not in a corn field with a thresher, in a golf cart on a golf range. I didn’t want you driving anywhere.

“I’m going to make it extremely clear today,” Abany continued. “You are not to drive anything, not a motor boat, not a Zamboni, not anything.”

Pagliarulo, 68, of Atkinson pleaded guilty Sept. 18 to a charge of negligent operation of a motor vehicle in the death of Priscilla Viens, 74. The collision in November 2010 killed Viens, who was out for her daily walk along Route 97 near her Groveland home. Pagliarulo was originally charged with motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation. The collision happened during daylight. Pagliarulo told police he did not see Viens, who was walking across the street.

At a hearing on Friday in Haverhill District Court, a judge found probable cause that Pagliarulo might have violated the terms of his probation by driving a vehicle outside his Atkinson home just four days after his license was suspended due to the fatal collision. Pagliarulo’s lawyer said the new charge happened because the son of the dead elderly woman was parked across the street from Pagliarulo’s home and called police when he saw Pagliarulo move his pickup truck on his own property.

At the end of Friday’s hearing, Judge Richard Mori ordered Pagliarulo held without bail until yesterday, when he faced Abany, who presided over the case involving the fatal crash.

One of Priscilla Viens’ sons, Joseph Viens of Salem, N.H., was in the courtroom yesterday along with his wife and their oldest daughter. Viens told The Eagle-Tribune that prior to Sept. 22 he promised his wife that he would not drive by Pagliarulo’s home, but on that day his curiosity got the best of him. Viens said that when he drove down Paglarulo’s street, he saw him behind the wheel of the same pickup truck that struck and killed Viens’ mother.

“I want him to know we live in the area and if he drives I will report it and he’s going to get caught,” Viens said. “We didn’t want him to go to jail, but we were told he’d lose his license for 15 years, which we agreed to,” Viens said of what his family was told early in the court process and before the judge ordered the five-year suspension of Pagliarulo’s driver’s license.

“He slapped everyone in the face by doing what he wanted to do,” Viens said of Pagliarulo’s decision to drive on Sept. 22. “I guess it is what it is, and I’ll have to accept it.”

At yesterday’s hearing, Assistant District Attorney John DePaulo referred to a police report, saying that on Sept. 22, four days after Pagliarulo was sentenced, he drove a vehicle. He said Pagliarulo was subsequently arrested for driving without a license. Abany questioned DePaulo about how this event came to his attention and DePaulo said had heard that some type of incident may have occurred in New Hampshire, so he checked with various authorities before calling Atkinson police last week.

Yesterday a Probation Department official said that according to the Sept. 22 police report, Pagliarulo told Atkinson police he moved his truck to the end of his driveway and parked it in the street to walk his dog when he saw a white van bearing the name “Viens’’ drive by.

Pagliarulo’s defense lawyer, Scott Gleason, said Pagliarulo has a 150-foot-long driveway with an electronic grid that crosses the driveway and that on Sept. 22 he drove to the end of the driveway to bring his dogs for a walk when a van passed by him. Gleason said Pagliarulo is the one who called police to report what had happened.

”Police were getting reports from neighbors that there was a van that was making its way up and down the street,” Gleason said. “You have to go a little bit out of your way to be on this street.”

Gleason said police contacted Viens to ask if he’d driven past Pagliarulo’s home. Gleason said Viens told police he wanted Pagliarulo to know that “I know where you live.”

Yesterday, Gleason asked the judge for leniency for Pagliarulo, saying he’s learned a significant lesson.

”There is no evidence at all that would constitute driving on a public way,” Gleason said.

DePaulo said the instructions given to Pagliarulo at his sentencing hearing could not have been more explicit.

”The fact that he puts himself in this position four days after he is in this courtroom and is going on to probation...it’s startling,” DePaulo said.

Abany issued a stern warning to Pagliarulo not to get behind the wheel of any vehicle again.

”Someone died because of your motor vehicle operation,” Abany said. “I have the family here, still grieving I’m sure. Someone died because of your operation.”

Abany said the Viens family was “magnanimous” and “very generous” in not pressing for a harsher sentence than a year in jail suspended and a five-year suspension of Pagliarulo’s driver’s license.

”In my estimation, you got a very compassionate deal,” Abany said. “I presume I was clear... I didn’t expect you to drive anywhere.... in a cornfield with a thresher, in a golf cart on a golf range... I didn’t want you driving anywhere, even to do this thing of driving your dog to the end of the driveway.”

”I’m going to make it extremely clear today,” Abany went on to say. “I can’t imagine the Viens (family)... how they might feel after being told you would not get behind the wheel for at least five years and they see you behind the wheel of a car driving... albiet in the driveway.”

”I’m reemphasizing what you’re probationary terms are,” Abany said. “You are not to drive anywhere, anything, a motor boat, a Zamboni machine, anything... you are not to drive.”

Abany released Pagliarulo, saying he found no violation of his probation.

Following the hearing, Pagliarulo told The Eagle-Tribune he was sorry about what happened.

“I feel so bad about that it all happened in the beginning,’’ he said, “and I feel so bad about where we are today.’’