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Worcester bishop failed 3 sobriety exams

Arrest report says speech was slurred

Bishop Robert McManus, Roman Catholic bishop of the Worcester diocese, was arraigned Tuesday in South Kingstown, R.I., on charges that he fled the scene of an accident while driving drunk last weekend in the Rhode Island town of Narragansett. Frieda Squires/AP

WAKEFIELD, R.I. — Minutes after he allegedly hit a car in traffic and fled the scene Saturday night, Bishop Robert J. McManus of Worcester was so wobbly that a police officer halted his field sobriety test because he feared that McManus would fall and injure himself, according to a police report.

McManus’s eyes fluttered and were bloodshot, his speech was slurred, and when he was asked to count he could not. McManus told the officer that “he may have hit a vehicle but he didn’t realize he did.’’ He ­refused a breathalyzer test.

Those details of McManus’s arrest in Rhode Island are contained in a police report ­released Tuesday morning, ­after McManus was arraigned in the J. Howard McGrath Judicial Complex. He pleaded not guilty to charges of drunken driving and leaving the scene of property damage.


McManus, 61, who has led the Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester since 2004, told ­police he had a glass of wine and a Manhattan, a mixed drink, with his pasta and steak dinner at 7 p.m. in Providence. Police said they are trying to ­determine where McManus dined.

Police were sent to Colonel John Gardner Road after John L. Smith called 911 to report that he was the victim of a hit-and-run accident at the intersection of Bridgetown Road and Boston Neck Road in ­Narragansett.

Smith told police that he followed the car that had hit him about 2 miles until it pulled ­into the driveway of a home, later identified as being owned by McManus’s siblings.

Smith, who is a Warwick ­police dispatcher, told police his head slammed against the driver’s side window when his car was hit. He declined medical treatment at the scene, but later went to South County Hospital.

Thomas Ricci, Smith’s attorney, said during a telephone inter­view Tuesday that his client suffered injuries that have caused him to take leave from his job, including pain radiating down his arm and leg.


Ricci said he also wants to know where McManus had dinner and drinks Saturday and wants to determine exactly how many drinks he had. Smith was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

When police arrived to question the driver of the car, according to the report written by Narragansett police Officer Kevin L. O’Connor, McManus was standing outside his ­Honda.

“I could detect a moderate odor of alcohol emanating from his mouth as he spoke; ­McManus’s face was red, and his eyes were severely bloodshot,’’ O’Connor wrote, adding that it took McManus 15 seconds to get his wallet out of his pocket. “I asked McManus what had taken place. ­McManus started speaking and slurring his words to the point it was difficult to understand.’’

O’Connor said McManus then told him that he may have hit a vehicle.

McManus was arrested after failing three field sobriety tests: following the officer’s finger as he moved it in front of ­McManus’s eyes, walking an imaginary line for nine steps, and standing on one leg while counting to 10.

After his arrest at 10:49 p.m by O’Connor, McManus refused a breathalyzer test, a civil ­offense.

Tuesday’s arraignment lasted about two minutes. ­McManus, who appeared in the black suit with white clerical collar usually worn by Roman Catholic clergy, did not speak. After the arraignment, his ­attorney, Bill Murphy, spoke briefly with reporters as ­McManus stood by his side.


“The bishop, through his ­office, released a statement yesterday and I’ve instructed him not to comment at this point while the case is pending,” ­Murphy said.

McManus, appearing somewhat anxious to say something after being asked by reporters several times to comment, echoed his attorney’s statement.

“My comments made yesterday stand,” he said.

The statement issued by ­McManus on Monday said that he had made a “terrible error in judgment.’’

McManus pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges of drunken driving and leaving the scene of property damage. He remains on active status, said Raymond Delisle, spokesman for the Worcester Diocese.

“Bishop McManus is dealing with this issue while continuing as the acting bishop of Worcester,” Delisle said.

Michael Verseckes, spokesman for the Massachusetts ­Department of Transportation, said McManus’s driving status in the Commonwealth remains active, until the state is notified of the arrest.

“When a record of the OUI appears, we will begin the suspension process for his Massachusetts license,” he said, adding that according to Massachusetts law, an OUI offense that occurs in another state is treated as if it occurred in Massa­chusetts.

McManus is due back in court on May 28 and faces a hearing in traffic tribunal on the refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test. He remained free on $1,000 bail.

Travis Andersen of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Brian Ballou can be reached at bballou@globe.com.
Follow him on Twitter at @globeballou.