Selectman’s defense set back by ruling

WESTFIELD – The defense in the trial of Blandford Selectman Robert R. Nichols received a setback last week when Westfield District Court Judge Philip A. Contant denied a motion to suppress key evidence supporting charges of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of narcotics and negligent operation of a motor vehicle.
Nichols, 60, of 106 Main St., Blandford, had been arrested by state troopers on May 19, 2011, after a crash involving Nichols’ Land Rover SUV and a small school bus on South Street in Blandford.
State Trooper Mark Rogers had responded the crash and reports, in a document filed in support of an application for a criminal complaint, that he found Nichols appeared to be asleep as he sat in his vehicle with his head slumped minutes after the crash. He said that Nichols was “unable to form words or sentences” and was transported by ambulance to Noble Hospital.
The Russian speaking operator of the school bus, speaking to the trooper via an interpreter, told Rogers that he had seen the Land Rover “speeding and swerving back and forth across the road” and, although he braked and drove the school bus to the right side of the road in an effort to avoid the other vehicle, it struck the bus and pushed it further to the right side of South Street.
Neither the bus operator nor any of the four children on the bus sustained injury.
Rogers reports that a pre-tow inventory of the Land Rover revealed a total of 104 pills and capsules which were found to be five different prescription medications.
He advised the State Police desk officer that he suspected that Nichols had been operating under the influence of a narcotic and a trooper trained as a drug recognition expert, Trooper Jamie Magarian, was assigned to assist him when he attempted to interview Nichols in the emergency room in the presence of his wife.
Rogers reports he and Magarian found Nichols to be lethargic and falling asleep, sometimes in mid sentence. The interview lasted less than 15 minutes. Rogers reports that he did advise Nichols and his wife before he left that “charges would be forthcoming.”
The troopers returned hours late and found Nichols to be alert and responsive.
At that time he was advised of his rights and agreed that he understood them. He also was told that State Police had an interest in blood testing his blood and signed a form “indicating his consent for State Police to test his blood for the presence of drugs.”
Nichols was advised while in the hospital that he was under arrest for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of narcotics, negligent operation of a motor vehicle and for speeding.
A court clerk released him on his personal recognizance and he was released from the hospital.
Subsequently, Nichols’ attorney, Thomas A. Kokonowski of Northampton, filed a motion seeking to suppress the evidence gathered at the two interviews and the search warrant the troopers later obtained to allow them to analyze Nichols’ blood.
Contant last week allowed the motion to suppress the evidence obtained in the first interview ruling that Nichols had not been capable at that time of giving the troopers informed consent to speak with him.
However, Contant denied the motion to suppress evidence garnered in the second interview ruling “the defendant waives said Miranda rights knowingly, intelligently and voluntary (sic).”
In addition, Contant also denied the defendant’s motion to suppress the seizure of his blood.
The case continues in Westfield District Court with a hearing scheduled for May 25.

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