Defense Attorney John Harwood, right, argues for the minumum sentence for his client, Jarred Lynch, as Assistant Attorney General Stephen Regine listens, far left, in courtroom 2B at the Traffic Tribunal in Cranston Wednesday. (photo/Ernest A. Brown)
PAWTUCKET â€” While saying that he didnâ€™t believe the accounts from either party were â€ś100-percent accurateâ€ť and that the incident itself might have been sparked by â€śroad rage,â€ť a Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal magistrate on Wednesday ruled in favor of the Pawtucket Police Department and sustained charges of refusal to submit to a chemical test and a roadway violation that had been brought against Jarred Lynch stemming from his 2011 collision with a Pawtucket Police sergeant.
Following two days of lengthy testimony last week, Magistrate Domenic DiSandro III issued a decision that upheld the Pawtucket Police Departmentâ€™s move to re-file the two civil charges against Lynch, the 25-year-old son of attorney and former state Democratic Party Chairman William Lynch. At the center of his decision, he said, was that he found some of Jarred Lynchâ€™s testimony about the events surrounding the minor accident to not be credible while he considered Pawtucket Police Officer Justin Gouldâ€™s decision to arrest the young man for suspicion of drunk driving as â€śreasonableâ€ť based on the officerâ€™s observations and Lynchâ€™s own statements at the accident scene.
As a result, DiSandro imposed sanctions on Lynch consisting of an eight-month suspension of his driverâ€™s license, a $300 fine, 40 hours of community service, and completion of a DWI program, along with other associated fees and court costs.
The decision capped off a case that has taken a number of legal twists and turns since the rainy night of last Oct. 13 when Lynch, returning home in his Audi from a concert at The Met, was rear-ended by off-duty Police Sgt. Yuri Wozny near the intersection of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue. Both Wozny and Lynch gave differing accounts of what had occurred, accusing each other of driving aggressively, and Lynch wound up being arrested on charges of driving under the influence, reckless driving, refusal to submit to a chemical test and a laned roadway violation.
However, a special prosecutor hired by the city, attorney Michael J. Feeney, had the charges dismissed in both District Court and the Traffic Tribunal, much to the consternation of the Pawtucket Police. Then, Harwood successfully moved to have the criminal charges in District Court expunged and the related documents destroyed. The Pawtucket Police re-filed the refusal and roadway violation charges in the Traffic Tribunal, and Chief Magistrate William Guglietta ruled that the civil trial could proceed.
Neither Jarred Lynch nor his father were present to hear the decision. Attorney John Harwood, who has been representing Lynch since his arrest, made a motion that the sanctions be stayed, which DiSandro denied. He said later that his client would â€śprobablyâ€ť appeal.
Before making his ruling, DiSandro recapped details of the testimony, which included statements from Wozny, Gould, Jarred Lynch, and William Lynch, along with Pawtucket Police Officer William Briggs, who transported Jarred Lynch to the station following his arrest, and Pawtucket Police Lt. Cory Jackson, who handled an internal affairs complaint that Lynch made against the Pawtucket Police in regard to the incident.
DiSandro said that because of some â€śglaring inconsistenciesâ€ť in Jarred Lynchâ€™s accounts on the witness stand, the court found that the state had â€śsuccessfully impeachedâ€ť the young manâ€™s testimony. He noted that while the case involved Wozny, the Traffic Tribunal charges centered around Gouldâ€™s actions that night and said he thought the officer had â€śreasonable groundsâ€ť to arrest Lynch for driving under the influence.
DiSandro also said that based on the testimony of Gould, Briggs and Jackson, he believed that Lynch had been properly taken into custody and advised of his rights.
As to the laned roadway violation, DiSandro said he believed that Lynch had been operating unsafely and sustained an $85 fine for this offense. He said he accepted the fundamental claim that Lynch accelerated rapidly, swerved and braked suddenly, causing Wozny to be unable to stop and the collision to occur.
Prior to DiSandro issuing the sanctions, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Regine said that while Lynch had no prior alcohol-related offenses on his driving record, he thought he should receive two monthsâ€™ more than the six-month minimum loss of license because he had never made an offer of a plea or acknowledged he was wrong, and had given testimony that was not deemed credible. He also recommended that Lynch be required to perform 60 hours of community service because, being in his mid-20s, he was in a position â€śto deter others.â€ť
Harwood argued that Lynch should receive the minimum sanctions for the two charges and suggested that he should not be treated differently than any other young man in similar circumstances because of his name.
DiSandro responded that Lynch was â€śnot being treated differently,â€ť but reiterated that, due to the young manâ€™s demeanor and inconsistencies in his accounts, he had had difficulty believing his testimony.
Outside the Traffic Tribunal, Harwood said that he disagreed with DiSandroâ€™s decision and thought it to be unfair, particularly the eight-month loss of driving privileges. He further noted that Lynchâ€™s vehicle had been hit from behind, and found DiSandroâ€™s comments about road rage to be â€śoff-base.â€ť
Following the news of the decision, the Pawtucket Police issued a statement saying that â€śthe departmentâ€™s intent has always been for this matter to be brought before the court where the merits of the case would be evaluated by a neutral, unbiased and unpartial judicial officer. The magistrate who heard this case has made his ruling. The matter has been resolved and this issue is now part of the past.â€ť
Attorney General Peter Kilmartin issued a lengthier statement, saying, â€śThe initial handling of this case caused a number of people to question their confidence in the court system. With this decision, I believe that confidence has been restored.â€ť
Kilmartin continued, â€śAlthough the travel of this case is anything but typical, the facts did not change. As Magistrate DiSandro noted in his decision, the actions by Jarred Lynch on the evening in question caused the motor vehicle accident, which led to the Pawtucket Police to suspect Lynch of driving under the influence. After the performance of field sobriety tests, and with probable cause met, the Pawtucket Police took Lynch into custody on suspicion of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence, and, at the police station, requested he take a chemical test, to which Lynch refused.â€ť