EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 8, 2013

AMVETS escapes discipline in drunk-driving case

Man drinking at lounge crashed car into house

By Shawn Regan

---- — HAVERHILL — The License Commission voted last night not to punish AMVETS Post 147 for a 2011 incident in which an intoxicated man crashed his automobile into a home after allegedly drinking at the Primose Street lounge across the street.

At the scene of the accident, the driver of the automobile, William Cadorette, 67, told police he had “a couple of beers” at the club just prior to the late-night accident. But in a deposition in the criminal case against Cadorette for drunk driving, he told the court he had consumed the alcohol at his home and went to the AMVETS lounge only to check his lottery tickets.

Although the crash itself did not directly injure anyone in the house, the homeowner fell on some stairs while trying to determine what had happened and was taken to the hospital, police said.

According to a police report, the officer on scene noticed a strong odor of alcohol emanating from Cadorette after firefighters helped the man out of his car.

“Lt. Mimms was actually having to hold up the defendant as he was unsteady on his feet and swaying back and forth and nearly falling over,” according to patrolman Stephen Iannalfo’s report. “I then asked him what happened and he said he did not know. He said he thinks he passed out, then awoke after hitting the house.”

Iannalfo said he asked Cadorette for his identification and had to wait “at least five minutes” for the man to retrieve it. When Iannalfo assisted Cadorette in removing his drivers license from his wallet, the officer said Cadorette became “belligerent and angry.”

“I then asked him if he had been drinking as his speech was slurred and he seemed to be talking with a heavy tongue,” the officer wrote. “He stated he had a couple beers at the AMVETS that was almost directly across the street from the accident and he indicated that was where he was coming from.”

The commission had delayed action on the over-serving a patron allegation for more than a year until the court case was resolved, which happened recently when Cadorette pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol, second offense.

At a discipline hearing last night, lounge manager Irene Fisher told the commission that the establishment paid $150 for the court transcript in which Cadorette testified under oath that he consumed his last drink before crashing into the house at his home.

“We knew he was (at the lounge), but both bartenders that night told me he was not served any drinks,” Fisher told the commission. “He said he was drinking at his home, so we should not be liable.”

Commission members Tim Coco and Joseph Edwards agreed, but warned Fisher be more careful about over-serving patrons in the future.

“In the past 10 years there have been several probations, suspensions and violations against the lounge,” Coco said. “I’m concerned things over there appear to be lax at times.”

Paperwork in the case show the post has been found responsible for 13 violations of its alcohol license since 2001, but only one since Fisher took over as manager in December 2011. That violation was for an incident in which a bartender served alcohol to a minor in a police sting.

“We fight to keep people sober and keep things like this from happening,” Fisher said.

She said she works about 60 hours a week at the post, including Saturday night when the lounge is busiest and has a disc jockey.

The commission voted 2 to 0 to dismiss the case without action. Commission member Gerald Sewell did not attend the meeting.

“I don’t think we can impose discipline, but we can ask you to more vigilant in the future,” Edwards said. “AMVETS is an asset to the community and a place for veterans to go and relax. But everyone is a danger, veteran or not, if they get drunk and get in their car and drive down the street.”