Metro

Judge in Sweet Tomatoes fatal crash will decide on penalty for driver

Bradford Casler appeared in Middlesex Court with his lawyer, Thomas Giblin, (right) on Monday.
Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
Bradford Casler appeared in Middlesex Court with his lawyer, Thomas Giblin, (right) on Monday.

WOBURN--A man accused of killing two people when he drove his SUV into a Newton pizzeria in March 2016 appeared Monday in Middlesex Superior Court, where lawyers on both sides made their case for the sentence he should receive if he opts to plead guilty next month.

Judge Laurence Pierce heard arguments from prosecutors and a lawyer for the defendant, Bradford Casler, before telling the parties that he will decide by the end of the week what penalty he will impose if Casler admits to criminal charges stemming from the crash.

The 56-year-old Casler, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 25, made his way to the defense table Monday with the aid of a walker. He will return to court on Dec. 22.

Advertisement

He drove his SUV into the Sweet Tomatoes pizza restaurant on March 1, 2016, killing Gregory Morin, 32, and Eleanor Miele, 57, and injuring seven others. Casler is charged with vehicular homicide and driving to endanger.

Get Fast Forward in your inbox:
Forget yesterday's news. Get what you need today in this early-morning email.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Casler’s lawyer, Thomas J. Giblin III, said in court that his client should be sentenced to six months of home confinement and forfeit his driver’s license for the rest of his life.

“He has been living in a mental prison” since the crash, Giblin said. “Mentally, he is a shell of his former self.”

Giblin added that his client is very remorseful and has repeatedly expressed a desire to trade places with the victims whose lives were lost. The defense attorney asked the judge to show compassion for his client.

That request drew the ire of Assistant Middlesex District Attorney Christopher Tarrant, who called Giblin’s sentencing request “objectionable.”

Advertisement

Tarrant, who recommended that Pierce sentence Casler to five years behind bars in the event of a guilty plea, said during the hearing that the focus should remain on the families of the deceased.

“I would ask the court to offer compassion to the victims in this case ... who just celebrated a holiday without their loved ones,” Tarrant said.

Pierce has also received evidence about Casler having multiple sclerosis — which the defense cites as the root cause of the crash..

In Massachusetts, a defendant can withdraw their guilty plea once the judge has told them what sentence they will impose, and then instead take the case to trial. Casler is willing to plead guilty, in part, to avoid forcing the families to endure the emotional strain of a trial.

But Giblin said earlier Monday that if Judge Pierce settles on a significant prison sentence “we will withdraw the plea and go to trial. If he [Casler] is looking at any kind of incarceration it’s not going to happen.”

Advertisement

In September, Pierce listened as relatives of the people killed and some of those injured in their crash described the lasting impact the crash has had on their lives.

“I lost my partner, my husband, my best friend. My daughter lost her father,” Erica Morin, the widow of Gregory Morin, told the judge in September. “Joy has been taken from our lives. He was kind, loving, intelligent, and so, so funny. He was my rock.”

The couple had a 2-year-old daughter, Erica Morin testified.

Miele’s brother, Thomas Desmond, said his sister had helped an elderly woman into the pizza shop before the crash. She had stopped by the restaurant on her way to her parish in Watertown, where she planned to help assemble Easter baskets for poor children.

“The family is left with a sense of betrayal like we had been robbed,” Desmond said. “We’re torn between grief and anger because she was taken not by sickness or disease, but by the carelessness of the driver.”

The judge also heard from supporters of Casler. His brother and father also have multiple sclerosis, said rabbi emeritus Robert Miller of Temple Beth Avodah in Newton. Miller said Casler was devastated by the crash and told him he wished he had died instead. His health has rapidly deteriorated since the crash, he said.

Elanor Miele's sister, Mary Cicciu (center) reacted as Bradford Casler's lawyer, Thomas Giblin, (not pictured) spoke in court.
Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
Elanor Miele's sister, Mary Cicciu (center) reacted as Bradford Casler's lawyer, Thomas Giblin, (not pictured) spoke in court.

Gregory Morin's wife, Erica (left) and Eleanor Miele’s older brother, Thomas Desmond reacted as the judge scheduled another hearing.
Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
Gregory Morin's wife, Erica (left) and Eleanor Miele’s older brother, Thomas Desmond reacted as the judge scheduled another hearing.

Travis Andersen of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.