AMESBURY – A local reserve police officer charged with drunken driving and leaving the scene of an accident earlier this year was found not guilty of both offenses Wednesday by a Peabody District Court jury.
Sean Ward, 27, of Rowley was arrested on both charges by Rowley police on March 31 after he was accused of driving his Jeep into a fire hydrant and then a tree along Haverhill Street while intoxicated.
Immediately following his arrest, Ward was placed on administrative duty, effectively taking him off the streets. He had been a reserve police officer with the department since 2017.
“What this allows us to do is go forward with an internal affairs investigation starting tomorrow,” Amesbury police Lt. Craig Bailey said hours after the verdict.
Ward’s attorney, Gerry LaFlamme, said the six-person jury didn’t take long to return a not guilty verdict, an acknowledgment that prosecutors didn’t have enough evidence to convict his client.
“And I think the jury saw that,” LaFlamme said.
LaFlamme said the jury believed his client showed little if any signs of impairment and drove back to the scene minutes after hitting the fire hydrant.
“The jury’s quick verdict kind of established that,” LaFlamme said.
According to a Rowley police report, Ward approached Officer Chris Ottani minutes after police responded to the accident and identified himself as an Amesbury police officer.
Ward told Ottani that he must have fallen asleep while driving and hit the hydrant and tree. He also told Ottani that he left the accident scene and returned in another Jeep. Ottani wrote in his report that Ward smelled of alcohol and had bloodshot and glassy eyes. Ward admitted to drinking earlier in the evening.
Ward failed a series of field sobriety tests and blew a .118 blood-alcohol level, higher than the .08 legal limit for drunken driving, according to Rowley police.
However, when Ward took his blood-alcohol level test, it was after a Massachusetts district court judge ruled in January that Breathalyzer tests could not be admissible as evidence in OUI trials. The ruling came after the Office of Alcohol Testing admitted that hundreds of earlier tests were flawed.
Staff writer Dave Rogers can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @drogers41008.