, Newburyport, MA

May 10, 2013

Drunken-driving case transferred to superior court


---- — NEWBURYPORT — A Newburyport man will face his fifth drunk driving charge in superior court after he allegedly was so intoxicated he was in two accidents in less than half an hour.

Michael J. Lieber, 52, 1 Charles St., Apt. 104, had his charges dismissed at Newburyport District Court on Tuesday and will face indictment and arraignment in superior court related to multiple charges from two late January accidents in Salisbury. Among the charges are: driving while under the influence of alcohol (fifth offense), two counts of driving after license suspension for driving while under the influence of alcohol, two counts of leaving the scene of property damage, two counts of possession of class C drugs, possession of class E drugs and threat to commit crime.

According to Salisbury police, the incidents with Lieber unfolded quickly on Thursday, Jan. 31, beginning about 6 p.m., when the station received a call from Beach Cove Cabins. According to police Chief Thomas Fowler, Lieber and a female companion had pulled into Beach Cove Cabins requesting a room. After being refused a room, Lieber drove off, striking a retaining wall and didn’t stop at the scene.

Salisbury officer Michael Tullercash got a description of the car and its New Hampshire license plate number from the proprietor at Beach Cove Cabins, and issued a “be-on-the-lookout” alert for the vehicle, noting the driver was allegedly intoxicated.

However, within 15 minutes of this report, Salisbury police got another call from the victim of a hit-and-run accident at the intersection of Toll Road and Pike Street. Fowler said the victim, an off-duty Newburyport police officer, was driving his own vehicle.

“The victim reported he was traveling south on Toll Road and had a green light,” Fowler said at the time. “As he entered the intersection, a vehicle traveling north cut in front of him turning east and striking him head-on. He said the vehicle drove east and had appeared to be stopping, but just kept driving east.”

Sgt. Chuck Scione responded to that accident, according to court documents, finding the victim still in his car. However, a witness to the accident had followed Lieber until he stopped at a Collins Road address, Scione wrote.

Scione, officer James Leavitt and the victim of the second accident went to the Collins Street address, where Lieber was found sitting at a picnic table. The victim identified the car as the one that hit him, and Scione learned the vehicle’s description and plate number matched that of the vehicle involved in the accident at Beach Cove Cabins. He also learned that Lieber had four other drunken-driving convictions.

According to court documents, Scione found Lieber so intoxicated, he “swayed in a circular motion” when he stood, and his speech was so slurred “he was almost completely unintelligible.”

While at the Collins Street address, Lieber’s female companion, who also appeared to be intoxicated, came out of the house bleeding from her nose. She told police they’d been drinking at the Chop Shop in Seabrook.

“He wouldn’t let me drive and now look what happened,” the woman told police, adding Lieber was “too drunk to drive,” according to Scione’s report.

After being arrested and handcuffed and while being escorted to the cruiser by Leavitt, Lieber threatened his female companion’s life as he walked past her, according to Scione’s report.

“He mumbled something to the effect of, ‘When I get out, you (expletive), I’m going to find you and (expletive) kill you,’” Scione wrote. “Officer Leavitt then stated to (Lieber), ‘You shouldn’t threaten to kill someone in front of a police officer.’”

The woman refused treatment and was not charged.