Thursday February 2, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- A Springfield judge who is reviewing an appeal brought by Pittsfield Police to bring charges against Meredith Nilan in an alleged hit-and-run accident is expected next week to render a decision on whether to proceed with the case, The Eagle has learned.

According to court officials, Springfield District Court Judge William P. Hadley was assigned the case about two weeks ago and is continuing to review the evidence.

The 24-year-old daughter of Clifford Nilan, the chief of probation at Berkshire Superior Court, Meredith Nilan was driving her father's car on Dec. 8 when she struck a 45-year-old Pittsfield man on Winesap Road, according to police. Meredith Nilan's attorney has said she didn't know what she hit at the time and didn't find anything when she stopped and checked.

Peter Moore, of McIntosh Drive, sustained injuries, including a mild traumatic brain injury, a broken neck, a bruised colon, and a fractured calf bone.

Because of Nilan's father's position in the local court system, a clerk magistrate from Westfield was brought in last month to preside over a private show-cause hearing.

Following that 21 2-hour hearing on Jan. 12, Clerk Magistrate Nathan A. Byrnes found "no probable cause" to charge Meredith Nilan with the two misdemeanors sought by police.

However, Pittsfield Police appealed the clerk magistrate's decision not to charge Nilan with leaving the scene of a personal injury accident and negligent operation of a motor vehicle.

Hadley, the Springfield judge who handles cases for Central Berkshire District Court when the potential for a conflict of interest exists, is handling the appeal. He is said to be reviewing the audio recording of the Jan. 12 hearing, as well as other evidence in the case, court officials told The Eagle.

The judge can either dismiss the case based on the evidence he's reviewing or he can hold another hearing and then decide, court officials said.

Police said their investigation determined that Meredith Nilan had swerved into the opposite lane and struck Moore as he walked his dog on Winesap Road around 8:15 that night.

Moore's attorney, Michael R. Hinkley, has criticized the fact that no one has been held responsible for the accident and said they're evaluating their options with regard to a civil suit.

Hinkley has told The Eagle that he and Moore were not allowed in the clerk magistrate's show-cause hearing, couldn't get information about what happened, and that Moore didn't testify. A clerk magistrate has the discretion to hold an open or closed hearing and doesn't have to allow victims and their lawyers to be present.

Moore said he just remembers a car bearing down on him and trying to jump out of the way. When he came to, he said, he got up, walked home and went to lay down. Moore said he didn't think he'd been hit by the car, but he said his doctor later told him that his brain injury would explain that fact.

Early the next morning, Moore woke up in pain and went to Berkshire Medical Center. BMC called police that morning to report Moore, who happens to be a BMC administrator, had been hit by a car.

Meredith Nilan told police she stopped the car, but found nothing around that she hit. Nilan said she went back home and returned to the scene with her father to check again, but again found nothing. Around 9:30 p.m., Clifford Nilan called police to report that his daughter hit either a dog or a deer. Their attorney, Timothy Shugrue, has said they did everything appropriately in handling the situation, and that Meredith Nilan didn't know what she hit.

Police say they visited the area that night where Meredith Nilan said the accident occurred on Winesap Road, but didn't find evidence of an accident. After talking with Moore the next day, they found the accident scene further up the street.

The collision left dents in the 2001 Subaru Forester's hood and a head-sized hole in the windshield. The Pittsfield police later obtained a search warrant to inspect the car before filing the application for a criminal complaint that led to the show-cause hearing.