Truck driver won’t be charged in bike fatality
The driver of a garbage truck that killed a bicyclist in Charlestown in April will not face criminal charges, frustrating cycling advocates and confounding family of a 34-year-old newlywed.
A grand jury voted last week not to indict the driver, Ricky Prezioso, 41, of Swampscott. Prezioso said he never saw Owen McGrory, and kept driving, thinking he had hit a pothole.
“Now we’ve got to live the rest of our lives without Owen,” said John McGrory, whose family plans to file a wrongful death lawsuit against Prezioso and his employer, Capitol Waste Services Inc. “And there doesn’t seem to be any perceived justice.”
The grand jury decision, about a year after a similar outcome following the death of a Wellesley man in 2012, renewed calls from cycling groups for greater public understanding of bicyclists’ rights on the roads.
Grand jury decisions point to a problem that is less about law enforcement than it is about public sentiment, said David Watson, executive director of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition.
“Police and prosecutors are taking these cases very seriously,” said Watson, but not jurors. “It’s very disappointing that the people of Massachusetts seem unwilling to hold anyone accountable for the death of a bicyclist.”
But defense lawyer William Cintolo said it was the evidence, not bias against bicyclists, that led to the grand jury’s decision in Prezioso’s case. Video from “at least four” traffic cameras showed that Prezioso’s account of the crash was accurate, Cintolo said.
“You cannot look at them, you cannot see them, without understanding that there was probably no fault,” Cintolo said.
But prosecutors disagree.
“We believed the evidence supported the indictment,” said Jake Wark, a spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney’s office, which was seeking felony charges of motor vehicle homicide and leaving the scene of a crash causing death. “The grand jury is under no obligation to explain its decision.”
For McGrory’s family, explanations are hard to come by.
“My mother — she doesn’t want to face it,” said John McGrory. “When I phone her, she keeps talking about the weather.”
John McGrory described his brother as popular both in Boston and his native Londonderry, Northern Ireland.
“He was such a likable, down-to-earth sort of lad,” said McGrory, who had visited his brother in November. Owen McGrory married his wife, Shannique, in December, and lived in Chelsea with Shannique and her son. He worked in construction and had been an avid bicyclist since childhood.
Shannique McGrory said in an e-mail that her husband was fun-loving and playful and cared deeply for her children.
“I am shocked and disappointed at the grand jury’s decision, but I believe that the truth of what happened that day will come out through the civil justice system,” she said.
“We believe that there is overwhelming evidence of gross negligence on the part of the truck driver in this case,” said Valerie Yarashus, a lawyer representing the McGrory family in the civil suit.
Prezioso and Capitol Waste Services did not respond to requests for comment.
Yarashus also represents the family of Christopher Weigl, a bicyclist who was killed in December 2012 on Commonwealth Avenue in Allston.
The driver of the truck that hit Weigl could still face criminal charges, which Wark said are pending.
“We’re still waiting for the DA’s office to make that decision,” Yarashus said.
John McGrory said police and prosecutors stayed in close touch with his family during the investigation, and worked hard to prove their case.
“They done so much work on it,” he said by phone from London. “They took 6 weeks presenting it.”
Advocates said the repeated failure to charge motorists with crimes suggests not a problem with prosecution or the law — “The statute is clear,” Wark said — but rather points to a disconnect between bicyclists and the broader community.
Pete Stidman, executive director of Boston Bicyclists Union, said the relatively small number of people who ride bicycles regularly means few on juries will identify with the victims.
“The likelihood is that the minority of them know what it’s like to ride a bike, or take cyclists’ rights to heart,” Stidman said.