Stockbridge officials weigh sanctions against restaurant tied to fatal crash
STOCKBRIDGE — Michael's Restaurant & Pub is expected to face disciplinary action by the Select Board on Wednesday in connection with a fatal drunken driving crash last year.
During a public hearing, the board, acting as the town's licensing authority, will consider a wide range of potential actions such as modification, suspension, revocation or cancellation of the liquor license at the long-established downtown watering hole.
Selectmen will hear evidence that owner Michael G. Abdalla Jr. misled a police officer in violation of the Alcoholic Beverages Control Act, a state law, and that the establishment served liquor to a minor and to an intoxicated person on the night of the crash.
Abdalla, 54, of Lee, pleaded guilty on March 31 to one count of misleading a police officer. Under the terms of the plea bargain, he was sentenced by Berkshire Superior Court Judge John Agostini to two years' probation.
Agostini continued the case without a finding for two years, as long as he abides by Probation Department conditions. Abdalla also was ordered to donate $5,000 to a Berkshire charity.
Abdalla admitted he failed to provide video evidence to police during their investigation of the April 4, 2015, crash in Great Barrington that killed Garrett J. Norton, 21, of Housatonic.
Norton was a passenger in an SUV driven by Kyle Bailey, 22, of Glendale, a village in Stockbridge, when they crashed into a utility pole on East Street shortly before 1 a.m. Bailey and another passenger, Matthew Moriarty, 21, of Great Barrington, were seriously injured.
Bailey was sentenced on March 9 to four years in the Berkshire House of Correction after he pleaded guilty to motor vehicle homicide, operating under the influence and other charges. Michael's Restaurant was the last place he drank prior to the crash, Bailey told police.
Court files indicated that police found several opened and unopened containers of beer inside and near the car after the crash. They also found a glass pipe and glass jar containing a small amount of marijuana.
The video evidence withheld by Abdalla was a video surveillance tape at the pub on the night in question, which the restaurant owner said had been erased. The Berkshire District Attorney's Office accused Abdalla of intentionally erasing the video footage recorded shortly before the crash.
Assistant DA Gregory Barry stated that on the morning after, police tried to obtain the surveillance video. But they were told by Abdalla that the footage had been wiped out when he tried to change the time stamp on the recording device to conform with the transition to Daylight Saving Time. But the change from standard time had actually occurred on March 8, four weeks before the crash.
Abdalla's attorney, Jeffrey Scrimo of Lenox, disputed Barry's version. In a phone interview with The Eagle last October, he said his client cooperated with police, had fully complied with law enforcement requests, voluntarily turned over the recording equipment and that the video in question was no longer available because of the surveillance system's regular maintenance or another technical issue.
Scrimo also contended that the necessary recordings eventually were retrieved and that no footage had been lost or misplaced.
Any action taken by the Select Board on Wednesday could be appealed to the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission in Boston.
According to commission files, the Abdalla family's two South Berkshire establishments, Michael's and Bogies Restaurant and Pub in Great Barrington, have been listed several times as "the place of last drink" following accidents.
Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.
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