Driver of car who killed motorcyclist by running red light held without bail
01:00 AM EDT on Friday, July 23, 2010
By Kate Bramson
Journal Staff Writer
The Westerly woman accused of running a red light, striking and killing motorcyclist Colin B. Foote in May, has been “battling demons … struggling with a substance-abuse problem” for years, her lawyer said Thursday.
Since the crash, Laura A. Reale, 27, of 19 Summer St., has been free on bail.
But now, because she submitted someone else’s urine for court-ordered drug tests this month to hide her usage, Reale is in prison.
She was ordered held without bail Thursday at the McGrath Judicial Complex in South Kingstown. In four court appearances, two each in District and Superior Court, judges went back and forth over whether to hold her or put her into drug treatment.
Reale was in court with her parents. Foote’s family was also in court — his mother and brother, who witnessed the crash, and his father and grandmother.
After an appearance in each court in the morning, Reale’s lawyer found a drug-treatment program for her during the lunch hour, Michael J. Healey, spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said later. The Superior Court judge who earlier had held her, pending such placement, then ordered her released to go to Phoenix House in Exeter, Healey said.
But the prosecution objected, and the case moved back to District Court, he said. A second order there, to hold Reale without bail, then trumped the Superior Court order to release her, Healey said, because the District Court matter was about a past case and the Superior Court issue is current.
Foote’s family was summoned back to court within two hours of the morning’s proceedings –– to learn that Reale could be heading toward a facility that Colin Foote used to make donations to, his father, Richard “Robin” Foote, said later.
When the hearing was over, Reale was sent to the Adult Correctional Institutions.
In a court hallway after the morning’s sessions, Reale’s lawyer, Stephen R. Famiglietti, spoke of his client’s struggles with drug abuse. She had become addicted to the prescription drugs Xanax and OxyContin, he said, and sought help on her own a few years ago.
She has been taking methadone ever since, he said, at a clinic in Westerly. Methadone is used to treat narcotic withdrawal and dependence.
In the 8 ½ years before the crash that took Colin Foote’s life, police and court records show, Reale had 14 speeding tickets, 3 accidents, 6 warnings for speeding and 6 tickets for running stop signs or other moving violations.
Famiglietti said Reale didn’t see the red light she ran on Route 1 in Charlestown the night of the fatal crash. “And if that’s the truth,” he said, “that’s a negligence situation, not a criminal” one.
That night, Famiglietti said, there “was no indication she was under the influence of drugs.”
The police did not test Reale for drug or alcohol use after the crash shortly after 8 p.m. on May 16 –– they had no probable cause to do so, Charlestown Police Chief Jack Shippee said Wednesday afternoon.
Ninety minutes after the crash, Reale gave a witness statement, court records show. When asked if she had anything to drink that night by Detective Kevin T. Kidd, Reale replied, “I took my methadone this morning and I smoked some weed in the morning.”
Said Famiglietti: “In the period of time it would make a difference, she was not using drugs.”
Panic led Reale to submit someone else’s urine for her drug test, Famiglietti told Superior Court Associate Judge Edwin J. Gale, who arraigned Reale in the morning on one count of driving to endanger, death resulting, for which a grand jury indicted her on July 16. Reale entered a plea of not guilty.
While Reale was under court order to submit to drug tests after the felony driving charge, Famiglietti told Gale, she took Xanax and “one toke of pot.” Then “she panicked” and “made a very stupid decision.”
But all of that, Famiglietti stressed in court, had nothing to do with the fatal crash — the reason Reale stood before Gale Thursday.
Gale ordered Reale held without bail until she got into a treatment program, and said that she would then be released on $20,000 bail into treatment. He said she was next due in Superior Court on Sept. 7.
With the click-click of handcuffs, Reale was then restrained. With tears in her eyes, she walked out a side door, pulled along by a deputy sheriff.
The judge called Famiglietti and Special Assistant Attorney General Cindy Soccio to the bench for a conference.
“She’s a wreck today,” he told them as they spoke in hushed tones.
Directly across the hall, minutes later, Reale’s case was called in District Court, before Associate Judge Stephen P. Erickson. She was due before him to face the charge that she violated the probation he had recently set on a marijuana-possession charge filed last August.
The felony driving charge landed Reale before Erickson last month –– and she admitted then that she had violated the terms of that filing, Healey said.
In response, Healey said, Erickson converted the filing to a conviction and gave her a one-year suspended sentence with probation. Violating that sentence is what brought her back to Erickson Thursday.
Reale has been in “active and passive violation” of an order to stay away from drugs, Erickson said from the bench. “She’s been using drugs and taking steps to conceal the use.” He ordered her held without bail.
That was his determination after lunch, too, Healey said, even after Gale had agreed to release her to the drug program.
Reale must return to court on Aug. 4 for a probation-violation hearing. Laura Reale’s driving record
Dec. 11, 2001: Westerly speeding ticket.
March 1, 2002: Rhode Island State Police speeding ticket.
July 27, 2002: Westerly speeding ticket.
Dec. 17, 2002: Westerly speeding ticket, written for traveling 1-10 mph over the speed limit on Bradford Road. The posted speed limit is 35 mph.
April 16, 2004: Westerly ticket for not stopping at a stop sign on Dayton Street.
June 17, 2004: Rhode Island State Police speeding ticket.
Dec. 8, 2005: Westerly Police issued warning for speeding.
Oct. 15, 2006: Westerly speeding ticket, written for traveling 1-10 mph over the speed limit on Tower Street. The posted speed limit is 25 mph.
Nov. 10, 2006: Westerly Police issued warning for speeding.
Jan. 14, 2007: Westerly Police issued warning for speeding.
Jan. 19, 2007: Westerly ticket for driving without proof of insurance and speeding as a result of an accident by 165 Granite St. Reale crossed the center line and hit an oncoming car. No one was injured.
Jan. 25, 2007: Charlestown speeding ticket on Route 1 by Meadow Lane, written for 1-10 mph over speed limit. Charlestown ticket for a brake-light violation.
Feb. 11, 2007: South Kingstown speeding ticket on Route 1; written for traveling 55 in a 50-mph zone; actual speed recorded by the police: 73 mph.
June 10, 2007: Charlestown car accident, at 4016 Old Post Rd. at 314 Narrow Lane. While Reale was traveling south on Old Post Road, her car collided with one that entered the intersection from Narrow Lane. Both cars had substantial damage.
Aug. 4, 2007: South Kingstown speeding ticket, at 3363 Post Rd., written for traveling 60 in a 50-mph zone; actual speed recorded by the police: 75 mph.
Sept. 17, 2007: Charlestown Police issued warning for speeding.
Oct. 1, 2007: South Kingstown speeding ticket on Route 1, written for traveling 60 in a 50-mph zone.
Nov. 11, 2007: Westerly speeding ticket on Post Road, written for traveling 55 in a 50-mph zone; actual speed recorded by the police: 72 mph.
Feb. 20, 2008: Westerly ticket for not stopping at a stop sign on Elm and School streets.
May 17, 2008: Charlestown Police issued warning for speeding.
May 20, 2008: Stonington, Conn., ticket for not wearing seat belt.
May 25, 2008: South Kingstown police issued verbal warning for speeding on Route 1, for traveling 11+ mph over speed limit. No ticket written.
July 23, 2008: Westerly speeding ticket, at 365 Post Rd., written for traveling 61 mph in a 50-mph zone.
Sept. 18, 2008: Traffic Tribunal magistrate “court orders” her license to be suspended for one month. Actual court hearing was Sept. 9, despite Sept. 18 date recorded in her driver’s record.
Oct. 10, 2008: Driver’s license reinstated.
Nov. 25, 2008: Westerly Police issue warning following an accident labeled “her fault” in court documents.
July 29, 2009: Westerly ticket for not stopping at a stop sign on School Street.
Nov. 22, 2009: Stonington, Conn., ticket for not wearing seat belt.
Dec. 15, 2009: Westerly ticket for speeding and not stopping at a stop sign at School Street and Chester Avenue.
April 14, 2010: Westerly Police issued warning for not having a plate light, court records show.
May 16, 2010: The police say Reale ran a stoplight and collided with a motorcyclist who died in the crash.
May 20, 2010: District Court arraignment for driving to endanger, death resulting. Attorney General’s Office spokesman said Reale must undergo drug and alcohol tests and surrender her license and passport.
July 22, 2010: Reale still has a valid driver’s license, according to the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles.
Source: Traffic Tribunal, police records and Reale’s driving record
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