Driver charged in 2013 fatal crash faces new counts
BRATTLEBORO -- A Vernon man, already charged in connection with a fatal crash last year on Route 142, faces new allegations of violating court orders and enabling minors to consume alcohol.
Edward L. Class, 21, pleaded not guilty on Monday in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division to six misdemeanor counts. He was ordered to not consume alcohol, to not drive, to stay in Windham County and to abide by a 24-hour curfew at his home except for medical appointments.
Class has posted $5,000 bail in the new case. Windham County Deputy State's Attorney Steven Brown asked for the bail in last year's crash case to be increased to $50,000, but Judge David Suntag declined to hear that argument immediately.
Instead, a hearing will be scheduled on the matter, and Class will remain free on bail unless he gets into further trouble.
"I don't see that there's a basis to conclude ... that more (bail) than has now been imposed is necessary," Suntag said.
Class pleaded not guilty in December to two felony counts in connection with a June 8, 2013, crash that took the life of 22-year-old Tanya May of Readsboro. Police said Class was driving a Nissan Maxima north in the area of 2363 Fort Bridgman Road when he crossed the center line and collided with a southbound Jeep Cherokee driven by Andrew Bristol.
Class and May, his passenger, were initially trapped in the wreckage and were flown by medical helicopter from the scene. May died four days later at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Mass.
Class was hospitalized for an extended time. On Monday, defense attorney Evan Chadwick told the judge that his client still has "extensive" medical needs.
Bristol suffered relatively minor injuries and later told police, according to court papers, that he believed Class was "playing 'chicken' with him." Police also said alcohol was a factor: A Vermont Forensic Laboratory analysis estimated that Class' blood-alcohol level at the time of the crash was 0.063 percent.
Class' court-ordered conditions of release in the crash case included prohibitions on alcohol consumption and leaving the county.
But in an affidavit released after Class' arraignment on Monday, Lt. Mark Anderson of the Windham County Sheriff's Office Vernon Division says he received a tip from a witness who claimed that Class "parties every weekend, drinks every weekend, three nights a week."
The sheriff's office had responded to an underage-drinking party in Vernon on July 18, and Anderson received information that Class had organized that party.
Anderson said he reviewed a text message allegedly sent by Class stating, "so ima (sic) have a party in Vernon, who's interested."
The sheriff's department subpoenaed Class' cell-phone records and also executed a search warrant on his home, seizing the phone as part of that search.
Anderson said he examined Class' Facebook account, where there were pictures that appeared to show Class holding beer bottles and posing with people who had been at the underage party.
One witness told police she had attended a party in Conway, Mass., and Class also attended, according to the affidavit. Another witness told Anderson that Class had been drinking.
Court documents say Class denied involvement with the drinking party but, when asked whether he had left the state, he replied, "a little bit" and then requested his attorney.
In the new case, Class faces five counts of violating his conditions of release and one count of enabling alcohol consumption by a minor. In addition to the 24-hour curfew and the prohibitions on alcohol and driving, Suntag ordered Class to report for daily check-ins at the sheriff's office in Vernon.
Chadwick unsuccessfully had argued against the curfew and check-ins, saying Class' ties to the community show that he is not a risk of flight.
In spite of the new charges, "nothing has been proven at this point," Chadwick said. "We would submit that the conditions already in place would reasonably assure the safety of the public and ensure my client's appearance."
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.
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