By Dave Rogers
---- — WEST NEWBURY — Sgt. Daniel Cena and officer Royster Johnson IV did not violate any department rules, regulations or policies in their handling of the March 30 car crash involving retired high-ranking state trooper Charles Noyes, according to the findings of an independent consultant hired by West Newbury to investigate the incident.
The report, released to the press yesterday and conducted by retired Methuen police Chief Bruce A. MacDougall, contradicts an internal investigation conducted by the Haverhill Police Department, which concluded that West Newbury’s Cena and Johnson, along with Haverhill police officers, gave Noyes special treatment due to his previous position with the state police.
The report in part found Cena acted properly in not charging Noyes with drunken driving due to the fact he did not witness the crash on Route 113 in West Newbury and that he was outside his jurisdiction when he caught up with Noyes over the line in Haverhill.
A police procedure attorney interviewed by MacDougall concluded that had Cena issued Noyes a summons for drunken driving, the case would have been dismissed in court. Another police procedure attorney interviewed is quoted as saying Cena “did everything right.”
West Newbury police Chief Lisa Holmes hired MacDougall, of MacDougall Management, on June 11, saying it was time for her department to tell its side of the story. The investigation began a week later and was completed on July 13.
Yesterday, Holmes said she wasn’t surprised with MacDougall’s findings and added it was important to have the investigation completed so her police department and the town could move forward.
“The officers did what they were supposed to do that evening,” Holmes said.
In light of the Haverhill Police Department’s investigation, three officers in that city were each suspended for a week. No West Newbury police officers have been disciplined.
Asked to comment on the contradictory nature of the Haverhill Police Department’s assessment regarding her officers, Holmes declined.
“I’d rather not; they have their own disciplinary process,” Holmes said of the Haverhill department.
Calls to Haverhill Deputy Chief Donald Thompson, who had interviewed Cena as part of his department’s investigation, were not returned.
Noyes, 62, retired in 2006 as deputy superintendent, the second-highest rank in the state police force. He receives a pension of $117,379 per year.
According to West Newbury police, on the night of March 30, Noyes was heading west on Route 113 in town around 10:30 p.m. when his Cadillac Escalade struck a utility pole, snapping it in half and cutting power to the surrounding area. Noyes then continued on Route 113 toward Haverhill, driving with the air bags deployed.
Cena said he eventually caught up with Noyes just over the Rocks Village Bridge in Haverhill, where Noyes’ vehicle was in the breakdown lane near the intersection of East Broadway and Amesbury Line Road. Haverhill police then responded to the scene.
Despite evidence that Noyes was intoxicated when he struck the pole, according to the results of Haverhill’s internal investigation, he was not charged with drunken driving by either West Newbury or Haverhill police. Instead, West Newbury police charged Noyes with reckless operation of a motor vehicle as to endanger and leaving the scene of an automobile accident after property damage.
In May, a Newburyport District Court judge sentenced the retired trooper to six months of unsupervised probation for negligent driving and leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident. Noyes didn’t plead guilty, but admitted there were sufficient facts to find him guilty.
If Noyes stays out of trouble, the criminal charges are to be dropped after six months. Noyes was also ordered to reimburse the utility company for the cost of the pole that was destroyed in the accident.
The deal followed a closed-door hearing at which West Newbury police presented their case against Noyes to a court magistrate.
In the weeks following the crash, Haverhill police conducted an internal investigation into the incident and concluded that Haverhill and West Newbury officers declined to charge the retired state police deputy superintendent with driving while intoxicated, even though they had enough evidence to do so at the scene.
Officers from Haverhill, West Newbury and Merrimac and a paramedic from Trinity EMS ambulance company all believed Noyes had been drinking alcohol and should have been given a field sobriety test, according to Thompson’s report resulting from the investigation. Noyes told the paramedic he had consumed two drinks containing alcohol, the report said. No test was given, however.
Thompson’s report said Haverhill officers at the scene suggested that West Newbury officers charge Noyes with driving under the influence, but they declined. It said West Newbury police were in the best position to bring the charge because Cena witnessed Noyes behind the wheel of his mangled SUV and watched him stumble out of the driver’s side door.
But according to MacDougall’s report, “once Sergeant Cena crossed the Rocks Village Bridge into Haverhill, his police powers ended.”
“He was a private citizen as it pertains to exerting police powers. The fact that he was in uniform and in a marked cruiser is of no importance ... in both intra-state and inter-state out-of-jurisdiction incidents, the police department where the individual is located most often assumes responsibility for the scene and investigation of any crime that may have occurred in their community,” MacDougall’s report reads.
The release of the West Newbury report to the public was delayed until yesterday so the Board of Selectmen could review it first. Holmes said the town paid around $3,400 for MacDougall’s investigation.
Eagle Tribune reporter Shawn Regan contributed to this report.