Pubdate: Thu, 19 May 2016
Source: Boston Herald (MA)
Copyright: 2016 The Boston Herald, Inc
Note: Prints only very short LTEs.
Author: Antonio Planas
Bookmark: (Cannabis and Driving)


A Webster man was driving high on medical marijuana he had just 
bought at a Brookline dispensary when his car careened off the 
Massachusetts Turnpike, slamming into the back of a parked state 
police SUV and killing trooper Thomas L. Clardy, authorities said yesterday.

David Njuguna "had an active THC level in his blood at the time of 
the collision," prosecutor Jeff Travers said after the 30-year-old 
pleaded not guilty in Worcester Superior Court to numerous charges in 
the March 16 crash, including manslaughter, motor vehicle homicide by 
negligence and motor vehicle homicide while operating under the 
influence of drugs.

"The commonwealth would suggest that the evidence will show that the 
defendant was operating in an impaired state," Travers said, adding 
that investigators later determined Njuguna bought three joints from 
a medical marijuana dispensary within an hour of the fatal crash and 
that a "partially smoked marijuana cigarette" was found inside his 
2011 Nissan Maxima.

A law enforcement official confirmed the joints were purchased at New 
England Treatment Access on Washington Street in Brookline. A 
spokeswoman for the company did not return repeated calls for comment.

Brookline police Chief Daniel C. O'Leary declined to comment, citing 
an active state police investigation.

In addition to allegedly being stoned behind the wheel, Travers said 
witnesses told police Njuguna was spotted speeding and driving 
recklessly moments before he smashed into the back of Clardy's state 
police SUV around noon March 16 as it sat parked in the breakdown 
lane in Charlton.

An analysis of the crash, Travers said, indicated Njuguna was going 
81 mph when he suddenly swerved across all three travel lanes and hit 
the 44-year-old veteran trooper's vehicle.

Clardy, of Hudson, had been conducting a motor vehicle stop on the 
westbound side of the highway and later died from his injuries, 
leaving behind his wife, Reisa, and his seven children, ages 4 to 17.

Njuguna, who was arrested on his way to his attorney's office after a 
"secret grand jury indictment" yesterday, had casts on his arms as he 
appeared handcuffed for his arraignment.

He faintly pleaded "not guilty" to every charge and Judge Daniel M. 
Wrenn ordered him held on $500,000 cash bail. If he posts bail, 
Njuguna must surrender his passport and submit to GPS monitoring.

Uniformed troopers from the Charlton barracks, where Clardy worked, 
attended the court hearing.

Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said investigators 
found no evidence to indicate Njuguna intentionally rammed Clardy's cruiser.

State police Col. Richard McKeon said the department is still reeling 
from Clardy's tragic death.

"While we continue to heal as a police department, our healing will 
never be complete," McKeon said. "Because in a perfect world, Thomas 
would still be out there set up on a stretch of highway, looking for 
dangerous drivers and keeping motorists safe as he did so well for so long."

Njuguna's attorney, Peter Ettenberg, called the bail "excessive" and 
told reporters Njuguna and his family knew about the grand jury 
investigation and were cooperative with police.

Ettenberg said Njuguna is "remorseful" about the fatal crash and 
"absolutely denies" driving while under the influence of any drugs. 
Ettenberg also said Njuguna doesn't remember the accident.

"He does not know why he found himself on the Mass Turnpike going in 
the direction that he was going," Ettenberg said. "He has no memory 
of how the accident occurred."

Njuguna is due back in court next month.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom