Man sentenced for causing near-fatal crash while high on prescription drugs
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | November 15,2012
BRATTLEBORO — A 32-year-old Brattleboro man was sentenced to 3½ to seven years in jail Wednesday for causing a head-on car crash in April that almost killed a West Townshend man. The crash occurred while the driver was under the influence of prescription drugs, according to court records.
Dustin North was high on methadone, Xanax, and painkillers — all but the Xanax legally prescribed for him — at the time of the April 25 crash on Route 30 in Brattleboro, court records stated. North and his passenger were not seriously hurt in the crash.
The driver of the other car, Richard Kenyon, 58, of Brattleboro, also escaped serious injury, but his passenger, Joseph Chagnon, 65, whom he had picked up hitchhiking earlier in the day, was airlifted to the UMass Medical Center in Worcester, Mass.
Moments before the head-on crash, other motorists had called police about an erratic driver, who was weaving over both lanes of Route 30 and driving at high speeds. Police found morphine pills and Xanax in North’s car.
At the time of the crash, Kenyon was in North’s lane, but he had driven there to avoid the speeding and weaving vehicle.
Chagnon, a West Townshend resident, told Judge John Wesley that he supported the plea agreement and he hoped that North would get help with his opiate addiction.
Chagnon, who spent four days in the intensive care unit in critical condition, had a severely broken leg, a broken back, broken neck, broken ribs, a broken clavicle and a lacerated liver and kidney.
Walking with a cane, Chagnon said that he continued to improve on a weekly basis.
“Get him help for his apparent problem,” he said.
After the sentencing, Chagnon said that he bore no ill will toward North. “I do have a belief in God. Anger is a negative emotion that doesn’t promote healing,” said Chagnon, saying he was talking about both his healing and North’s. “It’s obvious he has a conflicted personality,” he said.
Chagnon said that when he read his medical records after he was discharged from the hospital, he was shocked at how bad his condition was. “It almost seems like they were talking about somebody else,” said Chagnon.
North, in his brief address to the judge during sentencing, apologized to Chagnon, and said he was sorry for the injuries he suffered.
“Mr. North, that’s a start, but a pretty small start,” the judge told him.
North pleaded guilty to a charge of driving while impaired by drugs, with serious bodily injury resulting, and possession of a narcotic, as well as a charge of reckless endangerment for another driving infraction after the accident, despite the fact that North was ordered not to drive.
According to court records, North was on methadone because of an opiate addiction, and that he had also taken Xanax, which he didn’t have a prescription for, and gabapentin, a painkiller. North has a criminal record involving drugs, and a federal conviction for possession of guns.
After the crash, North drove again, violating conditions of his release, and was also erratic, forcing a friend to take over driving.
North’s attorney, Christopher Montgomery, said that North was suffering from a back injury prior to the crash. He asked the judge to recommend North for the prison work camp.
Windham County Deputy State’s Attorney Steve Brown praised Chagnon’s forgiving nature. He also praised the work of Brattleboro Police Sgt. Mark Carignan. “He did a thorough and complete job and we got a fair and just result in the case” as a result.
Wesley, an avid bicyclist who himself recovered from a serious accident after being hit by a vehicle, said he was moved by Chagnon’s “display of dignity.”