November 30, 2012

Driver faces charges in fatal Biddeford crash

Christopher Bennett pleads not guilty to manslaughter and drunken driving, with death resulting, in the Sept. 2 crash.

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

ALFRED – A Rhode Island man who is accused of driving drunk in Biddeford and causing a crash that killed his friend pleaded not guilty Friday to manslaughter and drunken driving resulting in death.

Christopher Bennett, 20, of Johnston, R.I., made his first appearance in York County Superior Court in connection with the crash on Sept. 2 that killed his passenger, Anthony Ciccone, 20, of Pepperell, Mass.

click image to enlarge

Christopher Bennett, left, and his attorney, Randall Bates, in York County Superior Court on Friday.

John Ewing / Staff Photographer

Bennett appeared briefly before Justice John O'Neil to be arraigned, enter his plea and have his previously posted bail of $25,000 cash affirmed. His next court date has not been set.

Prosecutors have filed a list of witnesses they plan to call if the case goes to trial. The witness list, entered in Bennett's case file Nov. 23, includes five firefighters, eight police officers, three University of New England security officers, six University of New England students, a Biddeford resident, a chemist and a medical doctor.

The university's security staff called police to the campus in Biddeford on Sept. 2, before the crash. Security asked Biddeford police for assistance with two intoxicated men who were creating a disturbance in Sokokis Hall.

The men were not students, but were looking for a 21-year-old male friend who lived in the residence hall, police said at the time.

UNE security could not stop the two men, who left campus and drove toward the center of Biddeford, police said. Police saw a vehicle with a matching description -- a dark Ford Explorer with Rhode Island license plates -- speeding on Pool Street, but lost sight of it.

Another officer reported that the vehicle hit a utility pole on Pool Street as it headed downtown. Ciccone was taken to Southern Maine Medical Center in Biddeford, where he was pronounced dead.

The prosecutor in the case, Assistant District Attorney Brian Roberts, declined to comment after Bennett's arraignment Friday.

Bennett's attorney, Randall Bates, said authorities turned over some of their evidence to him Friday, now that his client has been formally charged. That evidence includes reports, videos and analysis of the crashed vehicle.

"We have not had a chance to look at all the police reports," Bates said.

He said Bennett has not decided whether to seek a trial.

Bates said he has instructed Bennett not to contact Ciccone's family, but the two young men were good friends.

"Chris and his family have been heartbroken over the accident," Bates said. "He has been going to some counseling. He's dealing with it as best he can."

While he's free on bail, Bennett continues to live in Rhode Island. He has been working and abiding by bail restrictions that require him to remain drug- and alcohol-free, submit to searches and abide by a curfew, his attorney said.

"I now have two months to look at all the police reports. If there are motions to be filed, that's the next step," Bates said.

Subsequent court dates will depend on any motions filed, he said.

 

Staff Writer Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at:

sdolan@mainetoday.com

 

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