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Mass MoCA director to be arraigned in connection with fatal 2018 crash

Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art director Joseph Thompson in 2017.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/File/Globe Staff

The director of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art will be arraigned later this month in connection with a crash last July in North Adams that killed a motorcyclist, according to the city’s police chief and court clerk’s office.

Museum director Joseph Thompson will be arraigned June 19 at Northern Berkshire District Court on a misdemeanor charge of motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation, and a marked lanes violation, according to the clerk’s office and North Adams Police Chief Jason Wood.

Thompson was driving an Audi SUV that was involved in a crash with a motorcycle around 10:10 p.m. on July 20, 2018, near 761 Church St. in North Adams, officials said at the time.


The motorcycle’s operator, Steven Fortier, 49, of North Adams, was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Thompson and a passenger in the SUV did not have serious injuries, officials said.

The charges in the case were reported Wednesday by the Berkshire Eagle.

The crash was investigated by North Adams police, State Police detectives with the Berkshire district attorney’s office, and State Police crime scene and collision analysis and reconstruction experts.

North Adams police had to wait for an accident reconstruction report from the State Police before deciding whether to charge Thompson, Wood said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, some of these accidents which are serious in nature take longer to conclude because of the number of agencies that are involved,” Wood said.

A show-cause hearing in the case was held May 9, according to the clerk’s office and Wood. Following that hearing, Wood said, the court found probable cause to issue a complaint.

A spokesman for Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington declined comment Friday.

Thompson’s Pittsfield attorney, Timothy Shugrue, said his client cooperated with investigators and, immediately after the crash, tried to render aid to Fortier.


“It’s devastating,” Shugrue said. “It’s a tragedy, no matter what.”

Thompson was driving to a musical event in North Adams when the crash occurred, he said. A fellow museum employee was a passenger in the SUV.

Just before the crash, Shugrue said, Fortier was traveling head-on toward Thompson’s SUV at a high rate of speed.

To avoid a collision, Thompson swerved to the left and over the roadway’s double yellow lines, Shugrue said. Obstacles along the right side of the road kept Thompson from moving in that direction, Shugrue said.

As Thompson swerved to the left, the motorcycle struck the SUV’s passenger side, Shugrue said.

“If he hadn’t done that, it would have been a head-on collision, instead of a side collision,” Shugrue said.

Shugrue said the charges stem from Thompson crossing the road’s double yellow lines as he tried to avoid the crash.

Thompson will plead not guilty at the upcoming arraignment, he said.

After the crash, Thompson’s passenger called 911, and they waited at the scene for police to arrive, he said.

“He feels awful,” Shugrue said of Thompson. “This is a tragedy, but he tried to avoid the tragedy.”

John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.