Early release for ex-officer convicted of vehicular homicide

  • James Rode, right, and his attorney Kevin Reddington during his vehicular homicide trial in Greenfield District Court in January. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 7/16/2020 4:41:03 PM

GREENFIELD — The former Greenfield police sergeant convicted in January of vehicular homicide stemming from a 2017 incident has been released from prison early.

James B. Rode, 50, was sentenced on Jan. 27 to two years behind bars, with 15 months of that suspended, meaning he must comply with certain probation requirements or risk going back to jail. He was released on parole on June 6 and it will extend through Sept. 12. His probation sentence will begin upon his release and run until Jan. 26, 2022, according to Coria Holland, spokesperson for the Massachusetts Probation Service.

Hollard said special conditions for Rode consist of completing 100 hours of community service per year until his probation ends, paying a monthly $65 probation supervision fee, also until probation ends, paying a one-time $50 victim witness fee and refraining from driving.

First Assistant District Attorney Steve Gagne, who prosecuted the case, explained earlier this week that a vehicular homicide conviction automatically results in an individual losing his or her driver’s license for 15 years.

It was unclear if Rode was discharged as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19. Massachusetts has released hundreds of inmates in an attempt to minimize the spread of the novel coronavirus by reducing incarcerated populations, which are kept in close quarters.

Judge Lynn Connly sentenced Rode in January to the Dukes County Jail and House of Correction on Martha’s Vineyard. Rode’s attorney, Kevin Reddington, had requested Connly allow Rode to serve his sentence in Dukes County, suggesting his client’s life might be endangered in a jail in the county where he served as a police officer.

Rode had been appealing his termination from the Greenfield Police Department, but Danielle Letourneau, chief of staff to Mayor Roxann Wedegartner, said Thursday that the case has been dismissed. She said she could not comment any further for confidentiality reasons.

According to a Massachusetts State Police report, Rode was driving south on High Street in Greenfield in response to a call of an erratic operator shortly after 8 p.m. on Oct. 1, 2017, when the police cruiser he was driving collided with a westbound 2010 Subaru Impreza driven by James Arcellana, 29, of Hinsdale, N.H. Arcellana died three days later of blunt force trauma to the head. Rode was driving 83 mph in a 30-mph zone before he started applying his cruiser’s brakes.

Gill resident Michael Palumbo, Arcellana’s close friend, was the lone passenger in the vehicle and was injured in the accident.

During witness testimony in January, Palumbo recalled being wheeled on a stretcher to the Baystate Franklin Medical Center emergency room (yards away from the intersection where the crash occurred) and feeling like his “chest was on fire.”

He said he required 10 staples on the back of his head and had a gash on his neck and a broken sternum. He was at the hospital five hours before being transported to a Springfield hospital, where he was released the next morning.

At the time, Gagne said the case was difficult and tragic for all involved. He said a mother lost her son and a longtime police officer lost his livelihood, his liberty and his legal ability to drive. Gagne said the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office “took no pleasure is prosecuting the case, but it was the just and right thing to do.”

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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