Cape DA admits mistake in drunken driving case
Nearly two months before he led police on a chase that ended in a fatal head-on collision, Mickey A. Rivera was accused of driving drunk in Hyannis. But even though he already faced charges related to a 2015 slaying, the 22-year-old was released without bail.
On Monday, in a rare public admission, Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe said the assistant district attorney had handled the case improperly.
“The district court prosecutor simply asked for a bail warning and asked that he be released on his personal recognizance,” O’Keefe said days after both Rivera and Kevin P. Quinn, who was returning from visiting his newborn daughter at the hospital, were killed in the crash. “Should he have done that? The answer is no.”
At the time of Rivera’s arraignment, the assistant prosecutor had been on the job for only one month and did not have many details about his previous arrest and arraignment in Fall River, O’Keefe said. O’Keefe did not identify the prosecutor.
Rivera was indicted in Bristol Superior Court in June 2015 in connection with the fatal shooting of Anthony Carvalho in March 2015. Rivera was charged with misleading police, armed assault with intent to rob, attempted armed robbery, and conspiracy to commit armed robbery, authorities said.
He pleaded not guilty and was held on $35,000 bail until last September, when his bail was reduced to $1,000. His defense attorneys cited a Supreme Judicial Court ruling that required judges set a bail that mirrors a defendant’s financial status.
When he was charged with driving drunk earlier this year, however, the prosecutor could have asked a judge to send him back to jail — which is commonly done in Massachusetts.
“Should he have pursued this further? Yes, he should have,” O’Keefe said, referring to the prosecutor.
Just after midnight on Saturday morning, Mashpee police began chasing Rivera, who was spotted speeding and driving recklessly on Route 28.
The chase lasted just minutes, ending when Rivera collided head-on with a SUV driven by Quinn, 32, a Marine Corps veteran who was returning to his Mashpee home after visiting his wife and their newborn daughter at the hospital.
A passenger in Rivera’s car, Jocelyn Goyette, 24, was in critical condition Sunday. Police did not provide an update on her condition Monday.
Friends on Monday remembered Quinn as a fun-loving man who was deeply committed to his family. Quinn and his wife, Kara, had been celebrating the July 25 birth of their first child, Logan Audrey Quinn, at Cape Cod Hospital this weekend.
Quinn was on his way home in advance of bringing his wife and daughter home from the hospital, according to a family friend.
“When you hear about this horrific accident and I hear it stems from a police pursuit of a criminal who has no respect for the police? And kills my friend when he’s coming home from visiting his wife and 2-day-old daughter? I am sad but I am angry,” said Denise Lauren Kalbach, 42, a longtime friend of Quinn’s.
On Monday, she went to the site of the accident to pay her respects, leaving a white cross that had been made by a veteran.
It was not known what triggered Rivera’s decision to flee from police. But his criminal history showed that an arrest could have sent him to jail for an extended period of time.
Superior Court Judge Thomas McGuire reduced Rivera’s bail in the Fall River case last fall over the objections of prosecutors.
“I was very disappointed the court reduced the defendant’s bail so drastically, based on the defendant’s criminal record and the serious nature of the charges,” Bristol District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III said in a statement.
Rivera was due to appear in Bristol Superior Court on Tuesday for the latest hearing in the Fall River case, prosecutors said.
In a separate case, Rivera was charged in March 2015 with armed and masked home invasion, armed assault, and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, in connection with the stabbing of two women in Taunton, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors dropped the charges because the victims could not identify Rivera, and the only other independent witness exercised a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, leaving law enforcement without the evidence needed to proceed with the case.
The fatal weekend crash also focused attention on the risks of police chases. While hundreds of people die nationwide every year in crashes linked to these pursuits, no official national or statewide policy or protocol exists about when and how police should pursue suspects.
In Massachusetts, the policies for chases are decided by each individual department, said Steve Wojnar, president of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association and chief of the Dudley Police Department.
“It’s the split-second decision on the part of the officer and it’s based on the totality of the circumstances,” said former Boston police commissioner Edward F. Davis III. “Are you pursuing someone that just raped and murdered someone, or are you pursuing someone who was wanted for a warrant?”
After listening to radio chatter from the field, a supervisor will often decide whether to pursue a suspect, Davis said. The supervisor considers the nature of the crime against the risk that the pursuit could cause harm.
“Having to make it in the heat of the chase is a horrible decision,” said professor Geoffrey P. Alpert of the University of South Carolina, a leading expert on police pursuits. “The supervisor is an important part of the pursuit triangle because it’s someone who is not involved and doesn’t have a stake in it.”
Away from the adrenaline in the field, the supervisor considers environmental factors such as darkness or rain, as well as factors such as traffic volume or number of pedestrians.
“The fewer people on the road, the more likely police are to make a pursuit,” Davis said.
Mashpee police officials did not respond to questions about whether the department has a formal policy on pursuing suspects.
According to transmissions recorded by Broadcastify, the chase reached speeds of up to 65 miles per hour.