Attorney seeks dismissal of RI man’s DUI charges in Northfield crash that injured seven

Defendant Ryan O’Farrell, at right, sits in Franklin County Superior Court on Monday for a motion to dismiss DUI charges after he allegedly crashed his vehicle into a group of motorcyclists in 2022, hospitalizing seven. Prosecutor Matthew Thomas is pictured standing at left and defense attorney Jeanne Early is seated next to O’Farrell.

Defendant Ryan O’Farrell, at right, sits in Franklin County Superior Court on Monday for a motion to dismiss DUI charges after he allegedly crashed his vehicle into a group of motorcyclists in 2022, hospitalizing seven. Prosecutor Matthew Thomas is pictured standing at left and defense attorney Jeanne Early is seated next to O’Farrell. STAFF PHOTO/ANTHONY CAMMALLERI

By ANTHONY CAMMALLERI

Staff Writer

Published: 05-13-2024 6:16 PM

GREENFIELD — The defense has filed a motion to dismiss driving under the influence charges against Ryan O’Farrell, a Rhode Island man accused of hospitalizing seven motorcyclists while driving under the influence of drugs on Route 10 in Northfield on May 29, 2022.

After scheduling a bail hearing for May 22 with Judge David Hodge and prosecutor Matthew Thomas, O’Farrell’s attorney Jeanne Early explained her motion to dismiss all DUI charges Monday afternoon in Franklin County Superior Court. Early argued that the prosecution lacks the necessary evidence to prove her client was under the influence of drugs at the time of the crash.

“It was a terrible accident, and aside from the victims no one feels worse about it than my client, but it was not a DUI,” Early said.

Hodge took the motion under advisement and had not rendered a decision by the close of court on Monday.

O’Farrell is currently facing 18 charges, including one count of operating under the influence of drugs, five counts of operating under the influence of drugs causing serious bodily injury, two counts of child endangerment while operating under the influence, three counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, five counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon causing serious bodily injury, one count of negligent operation of a motor vehicle, and one count of unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

According to authorities, O’Farrell was driving south on Route 10 near 272 Main St. in Northfield in an SUV that was pulling a trailer carrying a motorcycle at around 1 p.m. on May 29, 2022, at which time he crossed the center line and crashed into five motorcycles that were heading north in the oncoming lane.

Jeremy Bucci, the case’s former prosecutor, previously explained O’Farrell was leaving a motocross event with his 10-year-old stepson and that boy’s 13-year-old friend, when he stopped at a gas station. The 13-year-old reportedly told police he noticed O’Farrell was in possession of a white powder, which Bucci described as a “a telltale sign of heroin or cocaine.”

The 13-year-old reportedly told authorities that within minutes of leaving the gas station, O’Farrell began “nodding out.” Bucci previously said the 13-year-old was asked how he knew the term “nodding out,” and the teen responded that his own father struggles with heroin addiction. The slang term is associated with use of narcotics.

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Bucci previously claimed that the riders suffered “catastrophic injuries.” One woman had her leg amputated, and one man needed his right arm fused and later amputated.

Addressing Hodge on Monday, Early explained that her client tested negative for alcohol at the scene and was arrested immediately after admitting to officers that he had taken his prescribed opioid cessation medication, Suboxone, at 4:30 a.m. that morning. However, Early argued that the prosecution lacks evidence suggesting that the medication had an impact on his ability to drive.

Early added that the 13-year-old’s description of “white powder,” which she said the boy spoke of several days after O’Farrell’s arrest, was not corroborated by any additional evidence and could not be relied upon, as the teenager is not a medical expert or a witness with knowledge of drugs. Early added that since O’Farrell had been driving since 4:30 a.m., the crash might have been caused by exhaustion or other factors aside from impairment.

“There is no indication that [the juvenile] ever saw him take anything. There was absolutely no evidence of any white powder. There was no evidence of any baggie, there was no evidence whatsoever,” Early said. “There was a conversation regarding this alleged white powder that was seen, but never seen used by the young man. ... There was no medical expert. ... There is a teenager, a young teenager, who allegedly saw his father take drugs. That is not the standard, that’s not professional.”

In response, Thomas argued that the 13-year-old’s statement is admissible as circumstantial evidence, arguing that responding officers’ description of O’Farrell’s state lined up with the boy’s statement.

“We’ve got a child sitting next to him that says, ‘Yeah, I know what heroin dependency looks like because my father has been heroin dependent his entire life,’ so this defendant is showing those same symptoms,” Thomas said. “We’ve go two officers saying, ‘We’ve done roadside evaluations our entire careers, he started to nod off on us. We know what we’re looking for, we see it, we rule out it being alcohol and he admits to taking Suboxone.’”

Anthony Cammalleri can be reached at acammalleri@recorder.com or 413-930-4429.