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Norfolk DA won’t face criminal charges in crash

Morrissey fined $100 after releasing records showing he fainted, was not inebriated

Norfollk County DA Michael Morrissey made a statement outside the district courthouse in Quincy on Monday.

Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Norfollk County DA Michael Morrissey made a statement outside the district courthouse in Quincy on Monday.

QUINCY — Norfolk District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey was cleared of criminal wrongdoing for his role in a July 16 four-car crash in Milton that sent him and three others to hospitals, but the Quincy Democrat was ordered to pay a $100 civil fine for a marked lanes violation.

Morrissey, who was at Quincy District Court for a closed-door hearing before a clerk-magistrate Monday morning, released a variety of records to show that he fainted and was not inebriated or distracted by his phone when the crash occurred.

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“District Attorney Morrissey was found responsible on a civil matter of failure to stay within marked lanes and a $100 fine was imposed,” said Erika Gully-Santiago, a spokeswoman for the state trial courts. She said Morrissey will not face a criminal charge of operating to endanger, which Milton police had asked the clerk-magistrate to issue.

Morrissey later released his medical and cellphone records, which he said he had also provided to the court, in an attempt to be “as open and transparent as possible.”

He said medical records showed he “suffered from a vasovagal syncope, which caused me to lose control of my vehicle.” A vasovagal syncope is a fainting spell usually caused by the body’s overreaction to certain triggers, like emotional distress, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Morrissey said his episode was “a result of dehydration and fatigue on one of the hottest days of the year.”

The medical records he provided showed there was no alcohol in his system when he was tested about 2½ hours after the crash.

The cellphone records that Morrissey released indicated that he made a 28-second phone call about one minute before the crash and did not send or receive a text message around the time of the crash.

“My telephone use was not a factor in the accident,” he said.

Morrissey said in a July 18 statement that he had made a phone call from his car to order a pizza and “shortly after that last telephone call, I was perspiring and felt lightheaded, and the next thing I recall is being outside of my car which was stopped across two lanes of traffic.” The call, the district attorney said, was made using his hands-free wireless system.

“At the time of the accident, I did not know what happened,” Morrissey said in the statement. “Individuals at the scene told me my car crossed over the center line causing the accident. I have no reason to dispute that.”

Just before the 5:47 p.m. crash, Morrissey was driving a sport utility vehicle his office leased east on Centre Street at about 29 miles per hour, according to a State Police collision analysis and reconstruction released by Morrissey.

Morrissey’s car crossed the double yellow line and side-swiped another vehicle, causing it to roll over. Morrissey’s vehicle then collided head-on with a pickup truck. A fourth vehicle, another pickup truck, swerved to avoid hitting Morrissey’s car and came to rest atop a stone wall, the crash report found.

Morrissey was hospitalized for two days for injuries that included two broken fingers.

He said the State Police collision reconstruction report also showed speed was not a factor, he was wearing his seat belt, and the actions he took “were consistent with my medical records detailing I suffered a vasovagal episode.”

Because of Morrissey’s role as the top law enforcement officer in Norfolk County whose office has regular contact with Milton police, Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early’s office worked with Milton police on the investigation and a clerk-magistrate from Worcester County was assigned to hear the case Monday.

Pat Greenhouse and John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Colin A. Young can be reached at colin.young@globe.com.
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