NEWBURYPORT – A Newbury man accused of driving drunk while tailgating an off-duty police officer last month saw his driver’s license suspended for 45 days and was fined more than $800 after he appeared in Newburyport District Court on Monday.

Kenneth Eaton, 29, of 59 Green St. was charged July 15 with driving while under the influence of alcohol and negligent operation of a motor vehicle.

Judge Peter Doyle continued both charges without a finding for a year. During that time, Eaton must complete an alcohol safety awareness program and pay $850 in fees and fines.

If he adheres to those conditions and stays out of trouble with the law, the charges will be dismissed after a year. If Eaton is charged again with driving under the influence of alcohol, it would be considered a second offense, according to court records. 

A police report said off-duty Newburyport police Officer Charles Ferlauto was heading into the city from Amesbury via the Chain Bridge at 11:30 p.m. on July 15. At the bridge, he saw someone driving a Volvo sedan very close to his rear bumper and repeatedly honking the horn. 

Ferlauto called the Police Department’s dispatcher, who asked Officers John Gavin and Michael Wilichoski to head toward the bridge. Gavin saw the Volvo head east on Merrimac Street and pulled the driver over near Oakland Street. Ferlauto stopped driving and waited until Wilichoski arrived. 

“I asked the man (Eaton) what he was doing and him and the passenger said ‘he hit us!’ Gavin wrote in his report. “I asked them what he was talking about and they said that Officer Ferlauto had rear-ended them in Amesbury, so they followed behind him ‘riding his ass’ and honking the horn to get his attention.” 

Gavin checked the Volvo’s rear bumper and couldn’t find any signs that it had been struck by another vehicle. 

“I told the driver this and he said ‘well, he just kissed it, it’s the principle,’” Gavin said, adding that while speaking with Eaton, he smelled a strong odor of alcohol.

Eaton agreed to take a series of field sobriety tests but failed enough of them to be placed under arrest. At the Newburyport police station, Eaton blew .102 and then .107 blood-alcohol level readings. Both tests were above the state maximum of .08 in terms of driving while under the influence of alcohol, according to Gavin’s report. 

Ferlauto declined to comment on the case Monday in District Court.

Staff writer Dave Rogers can be reached by email at drogers@newburyportnews.com. Follow him on Twitter: @drogers41008.