Greenfield police officer’s trial rescheduled to 2020

  • Greenfield Police Sgt. James Rode in Greenfield District Court for his pretrial hearing in February. STAFF File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 8/15/2019 10:14:04 PM

GREENFIELD — The trial for Greenfield Police Sgt. James Rode, who is charged with negligent vehicular homicide from a 2017 incident, is being postponed again.

A motion for continuation was filed and approved Aug. 13 by attorney Kevin Reddington, Rode’s new attorney.

A hearing will now be held Dec. 10, before Judge Lynn Connly, “for a trial readiness conference and any possible motions including motions to suppress,” according to court documents. The hearing, which was originally scheduled for July 19 and then pushed to Aug. 15, included a motion to suppress the “defendant’s statement, certain autopsy photographs and (an officer’s) estimated speed,” according to court documents.

The jury trial has in turn been rescheduled from Sept. 30 to Jan. 21, 2020.

Rode, 49, was arraigned in July 2018 on charges of negligent vehicular homicide and speeding in connection with an October 2017 fatal crash on High Street. At the arraignment, new court filings were made available regarding the Massachusetts State Police investigation into the crash, which caused the death of James Arcellana, 29, of Hinsdale, N.H.

According to the Massachusetts State Police report filed by Trooper Joseph Ballou, Rode was responding to a call of an erratic operator Oct. 1, 2017 in a black Ford Explorer “low profile” police cruiser, “meaning it was marked with department lettering, but no overhead lightbar” when the crash occurred.

Rode was driving down High Street while Arcellana was traveling westbound on Sanderson Street in his 2010 Subaru Impreza toward the intersection of the two streets, the report states.

The investigators said the driver who was killed in the collision could not have seen the cruiser speeding 83 mph down High Street. The report concluded Rode was traveling at a rate of speed “far greater than reasonable and proper” in the 30-mph zone.

“When Sgt. Rode saw Arcellana’s vehicle crossing the intersection, he applied his cruiser’s brakes and swerved left in an attempt to avoid a crash,” the police report states. “The cruiser struck the rear passenger side of Arcellana’s vehicle, causing fatal injuries to Arcellana and serious but survivable injuries to his front-seat passenger.”

According to the report, neither Rode not Arcellana was wearing a seat belt. Phone records also showed that neither operator was using his cellphone at the time of the crash.

Judge Connly allowed the trial to be continued to a later date, stating, “Since the last trial date, I have found out I will be attending a conference in San Diego, Calif. that is in conflict with the Sept. 30 date. Therefore a new trail date will need to be selected.

“For this reason, the motion is allowed. If the parties can agree on a date earlier than Sept. 25, they may do so,” Connly wrote in a court document.

First Assistant District Attorney Steven Gagne wrote an objection to Rode’s request to continue, stating seven reasons why the commonwealth disagreed with a later date.

Some of the reasons were: “The last time the parties were in court, June 18, 2019, they proposed Aug. 15, 2019 for a hearing on motion(s) to suppress and trial readiness/final pretrial conference.

“The parties also suggest a trial date of Sept. 30, a date that was chosen based on availability of the court, counsel for both parties and the parties’ anticipated witnesses both expert and non-expert. Between June 18, to present, no motion to suppress was filed. On Aug. 13, 2019, two days before the motion hearing, new counsel for the defendant filed an appearance on this case,” Gagne wrote.

Gagne added that if Rode wanted new counsel, the attorney should have expected that the case would proceed to trial as scheduled.

Motor vehicle homicide is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 2½ years in prison and carries a 15-year loss of a driver’s license if convicted.

Reach Melina Bourdeau at or 413-772-0261, ext. 263.

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