BY PAUL LEIGHTON
---- — BEVERLY — City councilors are considering whether to reinstate the license of a hot dog vendor accused of beating and kicking an 86-year-old man last month.
John Doyle, 57, of 5 Blaine Ave., was arrested June 1 and charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon on a person over 65 and with making threats to kill a witness.
The incident prompted police Chief Mark Ray to ask the City Council to suspend Doyle’s peddlers license, which allows him to sell hot dogs at Dane Street Beach on weekends and on River Street near the train station on weekdays.
The City Council voted to suspend his license on June 4. But this week Doyle’s lawyer appeared before the council to ask them to lift the suspension and allow Doyle to resume his hot dog business.
Ronald Ranta said his client’s peddlers license should be restored because Doyle is making an attempt to solve his alcohol problem, which he said played a “substantial role” in the incident at the Italian Community Center. Since his arrest, Doyle has completed a detox program and attended a day treatment program, his attorney said, and he is now going to Alcoholic Anonymous meetings.
“He’s identified and addressed the core issue that has brought about this problem,” Ranta said.
Ranta said the incident was not related to Doyle’s work as a hot dog vendor. He said selling hot dogs is Doyle’s “sole source of income” and that he has “suffered substantially” from the suspension of his license.
According to the police report, Doyle and the victim were leaving the Italian Community Center on Rantoul Street when Doyle began punching the man in the head and face “without reason,” knocking off and breaking his glasses.
When the elderly man tried to get away by running through the parking lot, Doyle followed and continued to attack him, according to the report. At one point, witnesses said, Doyle knocked the man to the ground and kicked him.
Police who responded to the incident tracked Doyle down in a nearby bar, where he had fled. When police asked him if he had been in an altercation at the ICC, Doyle first answered yes, then said he didn’t remember. Police said Doyle was “heavily intoxicated.”
Police said the victim had a bloody mouth, bruised forehead, swollen left eye and a cut along the bridge of his nose. The victim was treated at the scene by personnel from Northeast Ambulance. He declined to be taken to the hospital.
Ranta said Doyle and the victim have known each other for 20 years.
Ray told city councilors that the violent nature of the incident, plus the threat that Doyle made to a witness at the scene, merits the suspension of his peddlers license.
Ray said the city requires the police chief to sign a “certificate of character” certifying that an applicant for a peddlers license is of “good repute for morals and integrity.” Based on the alleged assault of the 86-year-old man, Ray said he must withdraw that certification.
“This was well-investigated,” Ray told councilors. “There were several witnesses. There was a rather violent threat to one of the witnesses. Given these circumstances, there’s absolutely no way I could recommend the council sign off on this.”
Doyle pleaded not guilty in court and was released on $1,000 cash bail and ordered to stay away from the victim. Doyle attended the City Council meeting but did not speak publicly.
Ranta told councilors he will fight the charges in court. But rather than argue the facts with them, he said, they should consider Doyle guilty and make their decision about restoring his peddlers license based on his efforts to stay sober and the clean track record of his business.
City Council President Paul Guanci asked councilors to postpone their decision until their next meeting on July 15, and the council agreed.
“I need some time to think on this,” Guanci said. “Part of me is thinking of this as a one-time incident and this is one strike.”
“Many of us here may believe in a second chance, but we have to weigh that against the fact that Mr. Doyle will be interacting with the public, and ultimately our chief concern has to be the safety of the public,” Councilor Scott Houseman said. “I think my decision has already been made, but I don’t think there’s any harm in waiting two weeks.”
Councilor Jim Latter, saying he knows Doyle, addressed him directly.
“No matter what we decide, just stay sober,” Latter said. “Try to help yourself, please, because I have known you a long time, and I want you to be well.”