The driver behind the wheel when a car crashed into a pizza restaurant in Newton, killing two and injuring seven, may soon face a sentence. After a series of delays that have dragged the case out for well over a year and a half, a judge this month rejected requests from both the prosecution and the defense and said that, if the driver pleads guilty, he’ll be looking at two years behind bars.
The defense had asked for six months of home confinement, while the prosecution wasn’t interested in anything less than five years in prison. It’s still not clear whether the case will avoid a trial because the defense attorney insists his client will not take a plea if jail time is involved.
The March 1, 2016, crash took place at the Sweet Tomatoes restaurant on Washington Street in West Newton. A Volkswagen SUV came speeding down Chestnut Street straight into the building with so much force that, even after going through the wall, the furniture, and the granite service counter, it still shoved the restaurant’s 4,000-pound pizza ovens four feet upon impact.
Witnesses said they heard no horn, saw no brake lights, and estimated that the vehicle might have been moving in excess of 70 miles per hour. That could not be verified, but an engineer who examined the vehicle found that it was functioning without any problems and was traveling between 47 and 52 miles per hour when the engine shut down (at the final impact).
The two people killed in the crash were customers waiting for their orders. The injured included four employees and three customers. The restaurant only reopened in late August this year. At least two civil suits have been filed in relation to the crash.
The driver, who has multiple sclerosis, claimed that the brake pedal was stuck. Both he and his attorney at the time, as well as the prosecution, said his condition had nothing to do with the crash.
He reportedly had a spotty driving record, including three serious accidents and a ticket for failure to stop or yield. But the driver’s current defense attorney has recently argued that his multiple sclerosis was the cause of the crash, muddying the waters.
Motor vehicle accidents come in all forms: hit-and-runs, wrong-way crashes, crashes into buildings, and many others. They have more causes than most people can imagine, including speed, recklessness, distraction, and operating under the influence. Regardless of the specific circumstances behind any crash, those who are hurt or killed and their families have a right to seek fair compensation.