Metro

Newton pizza restaurant crash driver faces two years behind bars, judge rules

Bradford Casler (left) has contended, through his lawyer, Thomas J. Giblin III, that the crash was caused by the multiple sclerosis he was diagnosed with when he was 25 years old.
Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/File 2017
Bradford Casler (left) has contended, through his lawyer, Thomas J. Giblin III, that the crash was caused by the multiple sclerosis he was diagnosed with when he was 25 years old.

The driver of a car that crashed into a Newton pizzeria and killed two people faces up to two years in prison if he pleads guilty to motor vehicle homicide charges, a judge ruled Friday.

Bradford Casler, 56, slammed his Volkswagen Tiguan into Sweet Tomatoes Pizza on March 1, 2016, killing a young father and a 57-year-old office manager known for being active in her church. Seven other people were injured.

Casler, who has multiple sclerosis, has said through his lawyer that he is willing to plead guilty to avoid putting the victims and their families through a trial, provided he does not have to serve time in jail.

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Middlesex Superior Court Judge Laurence D. Pierce said he considered Casler’s medical condition in determining his sentence.

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“The court concludes that the defendant is a person of good character who has led a meaningful and productive life, notwithstanding that he suffers from a debilitating condition,’’ Pierce wrote. “I am convinced . . . the defendant has deep remorse for the harm he caused and that his personal health has suffered.”

Still, Pierce said that Casler should spend time in jail.

“The defendant caused the death of two innocent people and has forever changed the lives of countless others,’’ wrote Pierce, who in September heard impact statements from relatives of the two people killed and some survivors. “Punishment may include a measure of retribution, but not retaliation or vengeance. Here some amount of punishment is required.”

On the day of the crash, one eyewitness told police she saw Casler’s SUV weaving through traffic at speeds as high as 70 miles per hour on 25- to 30-mile-per-hour streets, according to court documents.

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He was driving about 50 miles an hour when he slammed into the side of the restaurant, causing a 2-ton oven to move nearly 4 feet.

Casler’s lawyer, Thomas J. Giblin III, who had recommended his client be sentenced to six months of home confinement and a lifetime revocation of his driver’s license, could not be reached for comment. He has said that Casler would choose to go to trial if the judge decided to give him a “significant” sentence.

Casler has until Dec. 18 to decide whether to plead guilty at his next hearing on Dec. 22.

Pierce sentenced Casler to one year behind bars for each count of motor vehicle homicide in the deaths of Gregory Morin, 32, and Eleanor Miele, 57. Prosecutors had sought a jail sentence of five years.

“Despite living with [multiple sclerosis] . . . at no time did the defendant take any steps to ensure that he could safely operate his vehicle,” Assistant District Attorney Christopher M. Tarrant wrote in his Sept. 6 motion recommending the sentence. “To the contrary, the defendant ignored his limitations in a vain attempt to appear as if they did not exist and . . . chose to operate a car despite what he knew about his physical condition and the potential consequences of his actions.”

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A spokeswoman for Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan declined to comment on Pierce’s ruling.

Giblin has argued that none of the doctors who examined Casler before the accident told him he should not drive. Shortly before the accident, the Registry of Motor Vehicles, which was aware of Casler’s condition, had renewed his license.

Giblin said Casler lost control of the car because of a “flare up,” a sudden worsening of his symptoms. According to prosecutors, Casler told emergency officials at the crash scene that he was not experiencing any abnormal symptoms.

Giblin has said that Casler, a father of three boys who watched his own father die of multiple sclerosis, remains despondent over the accident and has often said he wishes he had been the one to die that day.

Maria Cramer can be reached at mcramer@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @globemcramer. John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@
globe.com
.