PITTSFIELD -- A Lanesborough teen who struck a man with his vehicle while drunk early last New Year's Day was sentenced on Thursday to three months in jail.
Brody Whelan, 19, was given more time by Judge Paul Vrabel than was sought by prosecutors, who had sought only 30 days served. Vrabel told Whelan that this was "one of the more serious cases I've heard in recent memory."
About 12:20 a.m. Jan. 1, Whelan crashed into the back of a Chrysler minivan driven by Mark Alford, 41, of Pittsfield, who was stopped at a red light at First and Tyler streets. When Alford got out of the car, Whelan told him he was going to park, but instead he began to leave, police said.
Alford tried to stop Whelan, but the teen "gunned the engine" and hit Alford, who went up and onto the hood of Whelan's Buick Century before sliding off, being dragged "for a few feet" and then landing in the middle of Tyler Street, police said.
He suffered a head wound and a wrist injury and was taken to Berkshire Medical Center for treatment.
A witness followed Whelan's car and called police.
Whelan was arrested by state police after a traffic stop in Cheshire a short time later and he was found to be intoxicated, according to the report. There were two younger teens in the car as well. Whelan allegedly admitted to the trooper what he had done.
Whelan later was determined to have a blood alcohol content of 0.13, which is higher than the legal limit of 0.08. He was charged with drunken driving, leaving the scene of both a personal injury accident and a property damage accident and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (his car).
The teen's attorney, Edmund R. St. John III, told the court that there was "no doubt" that his client made a series of bad decisions that night, but said the act was "an aberration" for the hard working high school graduate with no previous record. The lawyer said Whelan thought the other driver was going to harm him and fled out of fear. He asked for a year probation for his client with a suspended jail sentence.
"I reject every ... rationale other than that he was leaving to avoid prosecution," the judge said.
Alford spoke in court Thursday, telling Vrabel that he continues to suffer from his injuries and his two children, who were in the car at the time, were "traumatized" by the event. He displayed the shirt he was wearing the night of the accident. It had been shredded in the incident.
Whelan pleaded guilty in Central Berkshire District Court to a single count of leaving the scene of a personal injury accident. The judge continued the other two charges without a finding of guilt and dismissed them.
Whelan had already pleaded out on his drunken driving charge. That case was heard in Northern Berkshire District Court, which handles cases in Cheshire.
He was given a continuation without a finding of guilt for a year in that case.
Vrabel sentenced Whelan to a six-month jail sentence with three months to be served and the rest of the time suspended until July. The Berkshire District Attorney's Office had asked for a six-month jail sentence with 30 days to be served.
This was the second attempt to resolve the Pittsfield case. In May, Whelan rejected a plea deal when a different judge told him he would have to serve two weeks in jail. Whelan took Vrabel's offer to avoid trial, which was scheduled for Thursday.
After the plea, Whelan was handcuffed and led away.
Besides the jail time, Whelan will be on probation until July and must refrain from drugs and alcohol with random testing during that time.
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