Nilan to be charged
Tuesday February 14, 2012
PITTSFIELD -- A criminal complaint has been issued against Meredith Nilan following a Springfield District Court judge's decision that there is probable cause that she committed two misdemeanors in an alleged hit-and-run in December that left a local man seriously injured.
Judge William P. Hadley, after reviewing the case against the 24-year-old Pittsfield woman, found that "while much of what is alleged here is circumstantial," there was enough evidence to allow the Pittsfield Police to charge her with two misdemeanors: leaving the scene of a personal injury accident and negligent operation of a motor vehicle. The judge's ruling reverses a clerk magistrate's decision not to press charges.
Nilan will be arraigned Feb. 29 in Central Berkshire District Court. Nilan is the daughter of Clifford Nilan, the chief of probation at Berkshire Superior Court.
Meredith Nilan was driving her father's car the evening of Dec. 8 when she struck 45-year-old Peter Moore on Winesap Road as he walked his dog, according to police.
Moore, of McIntosh Drive, suffered several injuries, including a mild traumatic brain injury, a broken neck, a bruised colon, and a fractured calf bone. He is recovering from his injuries, but has had to undergo surgery on his neck.
"Peter is focused on his family and his recovery; however, he is very happy there will be a full and fair adjudication of this case," Moore's attorney, Michael R. Hinkley, said on Monday.
Meredith Nilan's attorney, Timothy Shugrue, said she wasn't sure what she had struck and searched the area twice, once alone and later with her father. She found no evidence of what she hit, he said.
"Miss Nilan did everything she possibly could," Shugrue said.
The police report released Monday, however, contradicts Meredith Nilan's recounting of events.
Meredith Nilan told police she left her house around 9 p.m., when she hit something, possibly a dog or deer, on Winesap Road, but police learned that the Nilans called their attorney at 9 p.m., before they contacted police, and at the time Meredith Nilan said the accident occurred.
Shugrue told The Eagle on Monday that the Nilans simply called him because he was an old friend and they weren't sure what to do. He said he advised them to immediately call the police, which he said they did.
Police believe the accident happened around 8:20 p.m., and that Meredith Nilan swerved into the other lane, hitting Moore from behind. Moore's dog was not injured.
Moore later woke up by the side of the road and made his way home, believing he had jumped out of the way of the vehicle. Police believe he was suffering from hypothermia and he was also apparently suffering from a brain injury. He did not seek medical attention until the next morning.
When PPD Officer Marc Maddalena initially told Meredith Nilan that she hit someone, she allegedly told him, "Well he just took off."
Maddalena called Meredith Nilan's statement about Moore immediately walking away as "inconsistent."
"Mr. Moore remained on the side of the roadway unconscious for time for a pool of blood to have accumulated and for Mr. Moore to begin hypothermia as well," states Maddalena in his report. "Ms. Nilan struck Mr. Moore and left the scene of this collision and returned home without immediately contacting police and EMS. Had Ms. Nilan exited her vehicle as she stated she had, she would have observed Mr. Moore lying in the roadway."
Shugrue acknowledged that the report filed by the Pittsfield Police Department made his client look bad: "Of course, they're painting it in the light most favorable to them."
Pittsfield Police filed an application for a criminal complaint that led to a show-cause hearing last month to determine whether there was enough evidence to criminally charge Meredith Nilan.
A 21 2-hour hearing was held on Jan. 12 in Central Berkshire District Court before Westfield Clerk Magistrate Nathan A. Byrnes. Police, Nilan and Shugrue were present, but Moore's lawyers were barred from the hearing. Byrnes determined there was "no probable cause" to charge Meredith Nilan with the two misdemeanors sought by police.
The Pittsfield Police appealed the clerk magistrate's decision.
Judge Hadley, in his decision, stated that the police "manifested serious dissatisfaction with the magistrate's decision."
Hadley went on to cite a 2002 case concerning the "low threshold" needed to prove reasonable cause, comparing it to the same standard a police officer would use in making an arrest.
"If there is a determination a complainant has established probable cause, it is not enough for an accused person to contradict or even cast doubt on the complainant's statements," wrote the judge. "To avoid the issuance of a complaint, the accused individual must completely refute the complainant's evidence of probable cause. A resolution of factual disputes is a matter for trial."
Shugure, meanwhile, criticized the appeals process. He said he was never formally notified that the matter was being reconsidered. He said he should have been allowed to make arguments on behalf of his client.
For their part, Moore and his attorney have been critical of the secrecy surrounding the initial show cause hearing, which Hinkley told The Eagle he was not allowed to attend and was unable to get information about after the fact.
A clerk magistrate can choose to close show-cause hearings to the public.
Shugrue said it was only appropriate that a lawyer considering a possible civil suit should be separated from potential witnesses.
The judge's ruling was signed Friday. It was released publicly on Monday morning.
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