EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

December 1, 2007

Judge rules, tears fall

Lawyer who took sleeping pills cleared of crime

LOWELL — Elena Raucci was there and watched helplessly as a car being driven erratically by an Andover lawyer ran down her husband, killing him in the breakdown lane of Interstate 93.

Yesterday, more than a year after the crash, she was in the courtroom to hear the driver be found not guilty of motor vehicle homicide even though he had admitted being under the influence of the sleep-aid Ambien.

In announcing his verdict, Lowell Superior Court Judge Kenneth Fishman said the defendant, Ki Yong O, 36, a lawyer from Andover, did not know the side effects of the powerful sleeping pills he had taken prior to the accident on the night of June 30, 2006.

“Words can not describe this horrible death and tragedy,” Judge Fishman said. “(The situation) is unmercifully enhanced because it occurred in front of the wife and young son.”

O was also found not guilty on charges of leaving the scene of property damage.

The judge said O’s actions were not voluntary motor vehicle homicide because he did not know the effects of the prescription drug.

O’s testimony, where he made conflicting statements to police and had “selective memory” of what happened before the accident, led to “significant doubts to his credibility,” Fishman said.

But, Fishman was “unable to conclude (O’s) actions were voluntary motor vehicle homicide.” The judge called it a “very difficult decision” to make.

During the jury-waived trial, which began in early November, the judge heard testimony from O, Elena Raucci, sleep experts, and witnesses who called 911 the night of the accident. A sleep expert testified that O may have been “sleep driving,” a side effect of Ambien that has been reported.

O was seen driving erratically on Interstate 93 when his car slammed into Anthony Raucci, 43, of Methuen. Raucci had pulled into the breakdown lane in Tewksbury to change a tire and was struck while his wife and son looked on. Raucci died instantly.

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