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Thank God he didnt skate on this.
Way to go to all involved!

Key witness, 9, says he can't recall events in crash
Prosecutors say account changed
By Christine McConville, Globe Staff | April 28, 2005

WOBURN -- Prosecutors' key witness in their case against Enrico Caruso, the driver charged with plowing into a crowd of students and parents outside a Stoneham elementary school, testified yesterday that he could not remember what happened before the wreck or even talking to police about it.

Police say Caruso's 9-year-old grandson, Christian, told them on the day of the crash that just before Caruso's car jumped the curb, he reached for his cane, and that his prosthetic right foot got stuck on the accelerator.

But yesterday on the witness stand, Christian Caruso stunned prosecutors when he repeatedly said he could not see what his grandfather was doing in the moments before the crash.

''I always sit in the back seat," the boy testified. ''I can't see over the thing. I only remember being in a car accident."

Prosecutors were not allowed to present the police account of the grandson's previous statements to the jury because those police reports are considered hearsay and because the grandson could not be cross-examined by defense lawyers on statements that he says he does not remember giving.

Caruso, 66, is on trial on a misdemeanor charge of negligent operation of a motor vehicle.

Woburn District Court Judge Phyllis Broker threw out a second charge against Caruso: providing false information to the Registry of Motor Vehicles, by not telling them about his prosthetic right leg when he renewed his license in 2003. Broker said that prosecutors had not proved that Caruso lied when he checked no next to a question about ''any physical, mental, or other condition that may affect your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle."

Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Clark argued that it should be obvious that a prosthetic right leg would impair Caruso's driving ability, but the judge told Clark that to show that, the state needed a doctor to testify that he told Caruso not to drive with the prosthetic.

Closing arguments are scheduled this morning in the case, which brought attention to the issue of disabled and elderly drivers.

If the jury finds him guilty of negligent driving, a misdemeanor, Caruso will face not more than two years in prison and a maximum fine of $200.

On Oct. 1, 2004, Caruso drove to Central Elementary School in Stoneham to pick up Christian. As Caruso drove away, his car accelerated, jumped the curb, and hit parents and students standing nearby. Twelve people were injured, five of them critically.

Yesterday, Caruso's lawyer, Bradford Keene, told jurors that the crash was a terrible mishap, not a crime. ''The case, when you separate out the emotional aspect, is an accident," he said.

But then the six jurors and two alternates heard emotional testimony from witnesses, including mothers who fought back tears as they described how their children were maimed in the crash.

Andrea Eustace told jurors that she was leaving the school after picking up her son David, then 5, her daughter, and her niece. ''I heard a noise, and I saw the car and I grabbed the kids," Eustace said. ''The next thing I know, they were gone. The car hit them and took them, and David was pinned between the wall and the car."

Hours later at the hospital, when her husband told her that David's leg would be amputated, Eustace told the jury she screamed, ''No."

''They had to rebuild his calf, and his left leg was amputated above the knee," she testified.

State Trooper Shawn McIntyre testified yesterday that the schoolyard after the crash ''was complete chaos . . . the worst crash I've ever seen."

Stoneham police interviewed Enrico Caruso about an hour after the crash, and according to police testimony, he said that his car began to ''rev" for no apparent reason and that when he turned to avoid a parked vehicle, his car jumped the curb. Caruso did not testify yesterday.

But police say Christian gave a different account when they interviewed him a few hours after the crash at a local hospital. They say the fourth-grader, who told police he was sitting in the back seat at the time of the crash, said his grandfather started up the engine, then leaned across to the front passenger seat to get his walking cane. When reaching for the cane, his body shifted and ''his bad foot" got stuck on the gas pedal, Christian said, according to police.

''The vehicle then took off at a high rate of speed and although Enrico attempted to apply the brakes, he could not stop the car," the police report paraphrases Christian as saying.

In their report, police wrote that Christian, who lives with his grandfather and father, ''appeared mature and responsible" during the interview.

In court yesterday before the trial began, Clark asked Christian whether he knew the difference between a truth and a lie, and Christian cheerfully replied, ''The truth is better than a lie. . . . It's not good to tell lies. It says so in the Bible."

Clark said in her opening statements to the jury that the boy's testimony would explain what happened in the car that day.

In the pretrial conference yesterday, Keene criticized that approach. ''Their entire case revolves around a 9-year-old," he told the judge.

Two hours later, in front of the jury, Christian testified that he could not remember witnessing the events that led up to the crash or ever talking to the police about it.

''Did you see your grandfather reach for his cane?" Clark asked.

''I don't remember," the boy replied.

''Do you remember talking to [the Stoneham police]?" she asked.

''No," he replied.

Judge Broker intervened, asking Clark, ''Are you saying that his lack of memory is a recent contrivance?"

''Absolutely," Clark responded.

Keene objected, saying, ''That's because she isn't getting the answers she would like."

Christian's testimony stunned Clark, who had interviewed the boy last month about the crash. ''I was surprised," Clark said after court had adjourned for the day.

As the boy repeated that he could not remember what happened that day, some in the courtroom glared at the boy's father, Vincent Caruso, who was standing in the back.

In the hallway during a recess, Vincent Caruso and Paul Eustace, David's father, had a confrontation.

''You got a problem?" Caruso asked Eustace.

''I'm being harassed," Eustace shouted to a court officer.

''No, I'm being harassed," Caruso told the same officer.

As the two men were being separated, Caruso said to Eustace, ''You need to relax, man."

''Relax?" Eustace replied. ''Relax?"

WOBURN, Mass. -- A 66-year-old man was convicted Thursday of negligent driving for plowing his car into a crowd of children and adults outside an elementary school, injuring 12.

Enrico Caruso was driving with a prosthetic leg when his car hopped the curb outside Stoneham's Central Elementary School last Oct. 1, pinning children and adults against a concrete wall. Five people were seriously injured, including a 5-year-old boy who had his leg amputated.

"My life has been ruined by this accident," said Linda Schores, who spent two months in the hospital with serious leg injuries after she and her son were hit by Caruso. "I will never be anywhere close to the person I was before."

The jury returned the guilty verdict after deliberating for about an hour and a half following two days of testimony in Woburn District Court.

Prosecutors asked for Caruso to serve 18 months in prison and to have his driver's license revoked, but Judge Phyllis Broker delayed sentencing until May 17.

Caruso left court without commenting to reporters.

His lawyer, Bradford Keene, argued the incident was a "horrible accident," but not a crime. He said the car went "inexplicably went out of control" as he was trying to pull into traffic.

"He told the officers that he pressed down hard on the brake pedal, but the car wouldn't stop," Keene said in his closing argument.

A state police mechanic who later inspected the car couldn't find any evidence of a mechanical problem.

Prosecutor Alexandra Clark said it was obvious Caruso was driving negligently because his car was on the sidewalk. "Mr. Caruso had no control -- no control -- over his motor vehicle that day," she said.

After the verdict, Paul Eustace recalled telling his 5-year-old son David that his leg would have to be amputated just above the knee.

"I wish (Caruso) could have heard my son crying that he didn't want to have a leg with no foot," he said.

Schores said her son, Jonathan, was sitting on her lap when Caruso's car plowed into them, pinning them both against the concrete wall. Jonathan spent four months in intensive care, had more than 30 operations and nearly died from a rare viral infection, she said.

Caruso's 9-year-old grandson told investigators on the day of the accident that his grandfather's prosthetic right foot got stuck on the accelerator just before the car jumped the curb, according to a police report.

But Christian Caruso, whose grandfather had just picked him up from school when the crash occurred, testified Wednesday that he could not remember how the incident occurred, or talking to police about it afterward.
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