Trial date set for alleged repeat drunk driver accused of causing woman's death
PITTSFIELD -- The trial of Frederick J. Weller, the alleged repeat drunk driver accused of causing the death of a local woman in a February five-car pileup, has been tentatively scheduled for March.
On Thursday in Berkshire Superior Court, Weller's attorney, Nathaniel K. Green, said he planned to file several motions, including one to move the trial out of Berkshire County, citing publicity about the accident.
Judge John A. Agostini said he didn't believe there had been that much publicity concerning the case and that the attorney should file the motion just before trial in case they had trouble getting a jury.
Weller, 35, has pleaded not guilty to nine charges, including motor vehicle homicide while under the influence of alcohol, operating to endanger and fifth-offense drunken driving.
The motor vehicle homicide charge carries a maximum 15 years in prison.
According to a police report, Weller, of Sandy Hook, Conn., was seen swerving in and out of the northbound lane of Route 7 in Sheffield on Feb. 28, moments before he collided head-on with a Dodge Neon driven by Russell Brown and then into a second car driven by Moira Banks-Dobson. Weller's truck came to rest on top of Banks-Dobson's car.
Banks-Dobson, a 24-year-old Sheffield resident, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Brown, of Great Barrington, was severely injured. He has since been released from the hospital, but continues to suffer from his injuries. He was at the hearing Thursday and required a walker to get around.
Police said Weller attempted to run from the accident scene and threatened two men who tried to stop him. On Friday, Green said he also planned to file a motion to dismiss a charge of witness intimidation involving alleged threats made by Weller to one of the men.
Second Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Robert W. Kinzer III asked that a final pretrial conference be scheduled for Feb. 20, with the trial tentatively scheduled for the next month.
Weller, clean-shaven and looking heavier than in previous court appearances, hung his head throughout the proceedings and wiped tears from his eyes as he left court.
He remains at the Berk shire County Jail & House of correction on $1 million bail.
This is Weller's seventh drunken driving arrest. His previous cases, which go back to 1994, were in Chicopee, as well as New York, Con necticut and Vermont.
In Massachusetts, fifth-offense drunken driving is the most serious repeat-offender charge, even if a person has been convicted six or more times.