Sunday, March 9, 2014
The Biddeford man accused of driving drunk and hitting a family on bicycles, fatally injuring the father, returned to the York County Jail on Tuesday after spending the Labor Day weekend free on bail because of a clerical error.
David Labonte stands with his attorney William Trafidlo during his initial appearance in the York County Superior Court in Alfred on Aug. 12, 2013. Labonte struck a family of three with his truck in Biddeford esulting in the death of the father. He is charged of manslaughter and drunken driving.
John Patriquin / Staff Photographer
David Labonte, 56, who is charged with manslaughter and aggravated drunken driving, was freed after his father posted $100,000 bail on Aug. 28.
Superior Court Justice John O'Neil Jr. had required Labonte to post his own bail, reasoning that people are more likely to abide by bail conditions and show up for trial if their own money is at stake.
But a mix-up in conveying that requirement to a bail commissioner allowed Labonte's father to post his bail.
The York County District Attorney's Office moved Tuesday morning to revoke bail, saying a family member had posted it in violation of the judge's order.
The judge agreed, and Labonte turned himself over to sheriff's deputies. The money was returned to Labonte's father. There was no effort to have the bail money forfeited.
Labonte faces a Nov. 15 court date in the accident that killed Jamerico Elliott, 52, of Biddeford. Elliott died Aug. 7, five days after the crash near 364 Elm St.
Elliott's 17-month-old son, Lavarice, was in critical condition at Maine Medical Center in Portland but has since been discharged. His mother, Melodie Brennan, suffered a broken ankle.
Labonte has had his license suspended for drunken driving four times, according to state records. At the time of the crash, he had a cooler with an unopened beer in his pickup truck, according to court papers.
Police say Labonte's blood alcohol content was 0.15 to 0.17 percent, about twice the legal threshold for drunken driving. Because of his prior convictions, he was not allowed to have any alcohol in his system while driving.
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.
After Labonte's arrest, his attorney filed a motion with the court seeking to allow his family to post bail, and noting that Labonte's father, Paul Labonte, was prepared to post it. Justice Paul Fritzsche denied the motion.
Two separate explanations for last week's bail mistake have surfaced.
One of Labonte's new attorneys, Neale Duffett, said the requirement that no third party post bail was written on the back of the bail sheet that was given to the bail commissioner.
"There was an error made in the clerk's office or somehow that did not get transmitted to the jail and did not get transmitted to the bail commissioner," Duffett said. "So when a family member went in, it was recorded by the bail commissioner as third-party bail.
"We didn't see the back (of the bail sheet) until this morning," he said.
Duffett and Gerard Conley now represent Labonte, whose previous attorney, William Trafidlo, did not return a telephone call seeking comment.
Duffett could not explain why Paul Labonte sought to post bail even though the money was supposed to come only from his son. Duffett said the court process can be confusing to people who aren't familiar with the system.
Mary Ann Lynch, spokeswoman for the Maine Judicial Branch, said the bail stipulations, including no third-party bail, were entered into the state's computer but the bail commissioner, who customarily gets a paper copy, was not sent a copy.
"We send a paper commitment order (to the commissioner). In this particular case, as far as we can tell, a commitment order did not go over that would have identified no third-party bail. It was an oversight on the part of the clerk's office," Lynch said.
"As far as we can tell, there was no mistake on the part of the bail commissioner," she said.
Reached at his home Tuesday, Paul Labonte said he did not want to comment on his son's case.
"We'll just wait for the trial," he said. "What else can we do?"
District Attorney Kathryn Slattery said last week that family members are not prohibited from giving money to defendants, who then post bail. But she said she did not learn until late Friday that the bail commissioner had indicated the bail was posted by Paul Labonte, not David Labonte.
Prosecutors moved immediately Tuesday morning, after the holiday weekend, to have Labonte's bail revoked.
David Labonte is unlikely to raise the bail money himself. He is a self-employed painter who was living with his parents to save money.
Biddeford Police Chief Roger Beaupre, who was critical of Labonte's release on bail, applauded the District Attorney's Office for moving swiftly to have him returned to jail.
Labonte was not charged with violating bail conditions.
David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: