, Newburyport, MA

February 2, 2013

Port man charged with 5th OUI

Hit officer's car, allegedly threatened to kill woman

By Angeljean Chiaramida

---- — SALISBURY — A Newburyport man with four convictions for operating under the influence is in jail without bail, deemed a danger by the court after he was allegedly involved in two more drunken-driving accidents on Thursday, within less than half an hour of each other.

Michael Lieber, 53, of 1 Charles St., Apt. 104 in Newburyport, was arraigned yesterday at Newburyport District Court. The charges, brought by Salisbury police, stem from two incidents, one at Beach Road’s Beach Cove Cabins where he allegedly left the scene after striking a retaining wall, and the second alleging he failed to stop after striking a vehicle at the intersection of Toll Road and Pike Street, driven at the time by an off-duty Newburyport police officer.

According to Salisbury police Chief Tom Fowler, the incidents with Lieber unfolded quickly, beginning about 6 p.m., when the station received a call from Beach Cove Cabins. According to Fowler, Lieber and a female companion had pulled into Beach Cove Cabins requesting a room.

“The proprietor refused to give him the room” Fowler said. “And when (Lieber) was going, he struck a retaining wall, but didn’t stop at the scene. There’s no indication he did so maliciously because he didn’t get the room.”

Salisbury officer Michael Tullercash was dispatched to Beach Cove Cabins, where he received a description of the vehicle, complete with its New Hampshire license plate number, according to the police report. Tullercash then requested a “be-on-the-lookout” bulletin be issued for the vehicle, because of the report he received that its driver was intoxicated.

Fowler said within about 15 minutes of the call from Beach Cove Cabins, the dispatchers got a call from the victim of a hit and run accident at the intersection of Toll Road and Pike Street. Fowler said the victim, and 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. “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.”

Salisbury Sgt. Eugene Scione was dispatched to the accident, according to the report, and upon arriving found the victim still in his car. However, a witness of the accident, after checking on the victim, followed Lieber until he stopped at a Collins Road address, Scione wrote.

Scione, officer James Leavitt and the victim proceeded to the Collins Street address, where Lieber was found sitting at a picnic table. While there, 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 OUI convictions.

In his report, Scione said he found Lieber so intoxicated, the smell of alcohol was “overwhelming,” 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 came out of the house, bleeding from her nose, which Scione reported appeared to be broken. The woman, who also appeared to be under the influence of alcohol, told police they had 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.

It was after being arrested and handcuffed, and while being escorted to the cruiser by Leavitt, that Lieber threatened his female companion’s life as he walked past her, Scione wrote.

“He mumbled something to the effect, ‘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.’”

Fowler said the woman refused treatment and was not charged.

However, after booking Lieber at the station, the situation became even more bizarre, Fowler said. While in the Salisbury Police Station’s holding cell awaiting arraignment, Lieber rose to relieve himself at the urinal in the cell, Fowler said. Losing his balance due to his state of intoxication, he fell backward, hitting his head on the cell wall, knocking himself out, and falling unconscious to the floor, Fowler said.

The officers got to him within about a minute, because he was being monitored, Fowler said, and took him to Anna Jaques Hospital, from where he was transferred to a Boston’s Beth Israel.

“I only had three officers on duty all night, and one of them had to baby sit this suspect at the hospital and then drive him to the court for arraignment in the morning,” Fowler said. “And we were very busy (Thursday night) with other calls.”

According to court documents, Lieber faces charges in two complaints. In the first complaint related to the Toll Road/Pike Street alleged hit and run, he’s charged with driving while under the influence of alcohol-fifth offense, operating while under the influence with a license suspended for a previous drunk driving conviction, leaving the scene of property damage, threat to commit crime (murder), witness intimidation, possession of class B drugs (clonazepam) and possession of class E drugs (paroxetine hydrochloride).

In the second complaint for the alleged crimes at the motel, Lieber is charged with leaving the scene of property damage and driving with a suspended license for a previous drunken-driving conviction.

Following his arraignment before Judge Matthew Machera yesterday morning, prosecutors immediately filed a motion with the court for a dangerousness hearing, believing Lieber should be held without bail until his trial because he is too much of a danger to be allowed out on jail.

Machera agreed grounds existed for a dangerousness hearing, which was held shortly after yesterday’s arraignment. Following the hearing, Machera then ordered Lieber without bail for the charges listed on the first complaint.