SALEM — A Marblehead man who was already awaiting trial on drunken-driving charges from an arrest last spring is now being held without bail, charged with causing a head-on collision with a minivan while driving drunk on Sunday afternoon, Salem police said.
The crash, just after 1:30 p.m. on Canal Street, sent three people to the hospital, including the accused, Richard Burke.
Burke, 41, was a longtime legislative aide to embattled Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua when he was a state representative. Burke has been on paid leave since Aug. 15 from his $50,000-a-year job as a property acquisition and disposition officer for the city of Lawrence. That suspension was triggered by an unrelated complaint of misconduct, that city's human resources director said.
Now, he's being held in custody on charges that include second-offense drunken driving, driving an uninsured and unregistered vehicle, driving after license suspension, a number of plate violations, and making an improper turn.
A Salem District Court judge set bail at $5,000 for Burke on the new charges but also revoked his bail in the earlier drunken-driving case for 60 days, meaning he won't be released for up to 60 days or until that case is resolved, whichever happens first.
Burke pleaded not guilty yesterday to all of the pending charges in Salem District Court, where he was told that because he owns his 24 Hereford St. home, he does not qualify for a public defender and will have to hire a private attorney.
A 47-year-old Swampscott woman, Geralyn Stephan, told police that she noticed a Toyota Camry tailgating another driver on Canal Street near the Getty gas station when suddenly, the Camry, which had been heading south, took a sharp left turn into her path and struck her minivan head-on, Salem police Lt. Conrad Prosniewski told a judge.
Another witness who helped Burke get out of his heavily damaged car told police that Burke was confused, then told him, "I'm screwed," according to Patrolman Thomas Pelletier's report.
Both an EMT attending to Burke near the crash scene and police noticed an odor of alcohol on Burke, police said.
Burke, as well as Stephan and her son, were all taken to Salem Hospital for evaluation, according to the police report.
At the hospital, Burke refused to submit to a blood alcohol test.
Burke was arrested in April in Woburn on drunken-driving charges that are still pending. Because he also refused a blood alcohol test in that case, his license was suspended, Prosniewski told the judge.
Police say Burke had also put a plate from another vehicle on the back of the uninsured and unregistered Camry.
Burke's record also includes a drunken-driving charge that was continued without a finding for a year in Boston in 2005, then dismissed after he completed an alcohol safety program, and an arrest in Vermont on a drunken-driving charge that was later reduced to driving to endanger, Prosniewski told Judge Robert Brennan.
Defense lawyer Kelly Richenburg argued for Burke's release yesterday, telling the judge, "If he's held in custody, he'll lose his job and his house."
She suggested that he instead be placed on an alcohol-monitoring bracelet with a curfew or other conditions.
Richenburg said Burke had worked for the state for eight years and then went to work for the city of Lawrence.
Lawrence human resources director Frank Bonet confirmed that Burke has worked for the city since July 2010, first as a temporary hire and then since Feb. 21 as a permanent employee. He's been on paid leave since Aug. 15 pending the outcome of an "internal inquiry" into an allegation that he violated the city's conduct policy.
Bonet also said the city had no idea about any of Burke's prior arrests and would have offered him the services of an employee assistance program had they known.
Richenburg also questioned the strength of the earlier case in Woburn, saying Burke has filed a motion challenging the traffic stop that led to his arrest.
Brennan, however, expressed concern that Burke had apparently failed to follow a prior court order not to drive after his April arrest, and granted the prosecution's request to revoke bail.
Burke is due back in court on Oct. 17.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis may be reached at 978-338-2521 or email@example.com.