August 04, 2020

No contest plea entered in manslaughter case > Rhode Island man awaits sentencing

A Rhode Island man pleaded no contest Monday in Bangor to charges related to a car crash last summer in Milford that killed two women and injured the brothers of one of them.

Vincent Scopelliti, 55, of Johnston will be sentenced later on two counts of manslaughter and one of aggravated operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor. He remains free on $5,000 cash bail after entering the plea before Justice Jack O. Smith in Penobscot County Superior Court.

He could receive up to 40 years in prison on each of the manslaughter charges and five years on the drunken driving charge.

The July 5 crash killed Gwendolyn Herbert of Greenbush and her passenger, Marissa J. Braley of Olamon, and injured Braley’s two brothers, who also were riding in that car. The enhanced OUI charge to which Scopelliti entered his plea pertained to the seriousness of the injuries received by one of Braley’s brothers, Neil Cahoon. Another brother, Ronald Cahoon, was treated and released the same day.

Scopelliti originally faced two additional aggravated OUI counts corresponding to the deaths, but they were dismissed in a plea agreement. Maine law allows for more serious OUI charges in cases involving injury or death.

Braley and Herbert died when the the roof of the Buick Regal in which they were riding was sheared back by a Ford Bronco driven by Scopelliti. The Bronco was traveling north on Route 2 near the Pines Trailer Park; the Regal was headed south and coming into a curve. One witness said at the scene that the Bronco crossed the yellow center line and ran into the Regal.

Summing up what witnesses would have testified to had the case gone to trial, District Attorney R. Christopher Almy said the Bronco swerved into the opposite lane and collided with the Regal; an emergency medical technician and a sheriff’s deputy saw Scopelliti behind the wheel of the Bronco; and several people smelled alcohol on him.

Scopelliti told a state trooper he had had wine and several vodka drinks shortly before the crash, said Almy, and a testing revealed a blood-alcohol content of 0.18, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08.

Scopelliti, who also is the focus of pending civil suits by the brothers and the estates of Braley and Herbert, last month lost his attempt to keep out of evidence in his criminal case statements he made to a state trooper about his drinking activities before the crash on Route 2.

He did not address the court except to enter his plea and to answer questions. His attorney, Perry O’Brian, said Scopelliti had no memory of the events of that evening, including the impact.

O’Brian said his client had pleaded no contest, rather than guilty, to ease his defense in the civil cases.

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