Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Police are concerned that the Biddeford man who is charged with driving drunk into a family as they rode bicycles, killing the father, is free on $100,000 bail, and are questioning how he got the cash.
David Labonte stands with his attorney William Trafidlo during his initial appearance in the York County Superior Court in Alfred on Monday, August 12, 2013. Labonte struck a family of three with his truck in Biddeford earlier this month resulting in the death of the father. He is charged of manslaughter and drunken driving.
John Patriquin / Staff Photographer
David Labonte was released from the York County Jail on Monday night. A Superior Court justice had set the $100,000 cash bail with the stipulation that it could not be posted by any third party. But police say that didn't preclude family members from putting money into Labonte's account so he could pay the bail himself.
Labonte's release pending trial is worrisome, said Biddeford police.
"Because of his history of drinking and driving despite a court order, we're concerned he eventually will get behind the wheel of a car again or he will drink," said Deputy Chief JoAnne Fisk. "Because something is a condition imposed by the court, doesn't mean he plans to abide by it."
Labonte has had his license suspended for drunken driving four times and, according to state records and court papers, he had a cooler with a small number of unopened beers with him at the time of the crash.
Police say his blood alcohol content was between 0.15 and 0.17 percent, about twice the legal threshold for drunken driving. Because of his prior convictions, Labonte was not allowed to have any alcohol in his system while driving.
Labonte is charged with manslaughter and drunken driving in the death of Jamerico Elliott, 52, of Biddeford. Elliott died on Aug. 7, five days after the crash at 364 Elm St.
His 17-month-old son, Lavarice, is still at Maine Medical Center in Portland, in satisfactory condition.
After Labonte's arrest, his attorney filed a motion with the court seeking to allow his family to post bail, noting that Labonte's father was prepared to post the $100,000 bail, said York County District Attorney Kathryn Slattery. The court denied the motion.
A primary concern in setting bail is that the defendant not flee, Slattery said, and there is a stronger deterrent if the defendant posts his or her own bail.
She noted that nothing prohibits family members from giving money to a defendant; the bail money just has to come from the defendant's account.
Fisk questioned how Labonte paid so much bail money.
"If there's no third-party bail allowed, how did he come up with the $100,000?" she asked, considering that Labonte is a self-employed painter who is living with his parents to save money. "What this does is make a mockery of the system."
Labonte could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Labonte's bail conditions include the standard prohibitions on drinking, taking drugs or committing crimes.
His special conditions include not possessing the keys to any motor vehicle, not entering any bar and not having contact with any of the victims of the crash. He also is subject to random searches to ensure he is abiding by his conditions.
Labonte's next court appearance is set for Nov. 22, although that could change if he is indicted.
Labonte is accused of being drunk when he drove his pickup truck into the bicycle that Jamerico Elliott was riding, with his son in a seat on the back. The child was critically injured and his mother, Melodie Brennan, suffered a broken ankle.
Brennan could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Her neighbor and friend, Lisa Allen of Biddeford, said she spoke with Brennan, who told her she did not want to talk to the media.
A witness who was driving in the opposite direction reported that Labonte appeared to be asleep at the wheel in the moments before the crash.
She said he almost hit her car on Elm Street and then, as she watched in her rear view mirror, drove into the family without swerving or braking, according to court papers.
Labonte's Ford truck slammed into a parked pickup in which a family was sitting, then crashed into an apartment building.
The people in the parked truck were not seriously injured.
-- Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this report.
David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: