, Newburyport, MA

June 25, 2012

Lawyer pleads guilty to car accident

— LAWRENCE - Newburyport attorney Richard Heartquist avoided jail time after pleading guilty this morning to slamming head-on into a Methuen man’s car and then leaving the accident scene on Dec. 17, 2010.

Michael Baglieri, a Methuen father of four, was seriously injured in the 11:30 p.m. crash.

Heartquist, 43, of the Plum Island section of Newburyport, was ordered to pay $21,000 resitution to Baglieri and also must have a sobrietor, a device that won’t allow someone under the influence of alcohol to drive, installed in his car. The first payment of $4,000 is due in three weeks.

The attorney, who has an office in North Andover, pleaded guilty in Peabody District Court this morning to leaving the scene of an accident causing personal injury and property damage. Judge Richard Mori sentenced Heartquist to 18 months in the house of correction, suspended for two years, after Baglieri asked him not to put Heartquist in jail.

In previous plea discussions, Mori said Heartquist should serve at least 30 days in jail but honored Baglieri’s wishes in court yesterday morning.

Rather than see him go to jail, Baglieri said he wanted Heartquist to pay him restitution so he could catch up on overdue child support payments and have surgery on a herniated disk in his back - an injury he sustained in the crash.

“Mr. Heartquist, you really screwed up my life,” Baglieri said in court. “My recommendation is for him to get help,” Baglieri added.

Heartquist initially misled investigators, saying he wasn’t driving the truck involved the night of the crash. Investigators, however, obtained DNA evidence that put him behind the wheel that night.

The truck Heartquist was driving was registered to his wife, Newburyport city councilor Allison Heartquist.

Heartquist did not face an alcohol-related charge in the accident but did have a previous drunken driving conviction in Newburyport in 2005. His Massachusetts driver’s license expired in July 2010, five months before the Merrimack Street crash.