Superior Court judge denies motion to lower bail in RI man’s Northfield crash case

Ryan O’™Farrell talks with his lawyer in Franklin County Superior Court on Wednesday.

Ryan O’™Farrell talks with his lawyer in Franklin County Superior Court on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By ANTHONY CAMMALLERI

Staff Writer

Published: 05-22-2024 6:49 PM

GREENFIELD — Franklin County Superior Court Judge David Hodge denied the defense’s request to lower the $100,000 bail set for Ryan O’Farrell, a Rhode Island man accused of hospitalizing seven motorcyclists in a crash while driving under the influence of drugs on Route 10 in Northfield on May 29, 2022.

After scheduling a final pretrial hearing for July 30 and an Aug. 6 jury selection, O’Farrell’s attorney Jeanne Early, speaking in court on Wednesday, made motions that her client’s bail be reduced from the original $100,000 at which it was set in 2022 and that a formal bail hearing be set to address this.

Early argued that her client was held for longer than originally planned due to the state’s motion to continue the trial. Early also provided the judge with letters from O’Farrell’s friends and family that she said spoke to his character.

In response, prosecutor Matthew Thomas argued that the prosecution’s motion to continue was not an indication of the case’s strength, but to accommodate the “several dozen” witnesses that the state intends to call. He said the trial was continued because a juvenile witness, who was riding in O’Farrell’s vehicle at the time of the collision, had to undergo surgery at the time the trial was originally scheduled in May.

“I don’t see a continuance as a material change or that the commonwealth’s case has gotten any weaker. It’s not that we can ask for continuance due to some sort of ambiguity in the forensic work or the recantation of the witness or anything like that. That’s not what has happened,” Thomas said.

Noting that he did not see a material change in the case’s circumstances, Hodge denied the defense’s motion for a formal bail hearing.

O’Farrell is currently facing 18 charges, including one count of operating under the influence of drugs, five counts of operating under the influence of drugs causing serious bodily injury, two counts of child endangerment while operating under the influence, three counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, five counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon causing serious bodily injury, one count of negligent operation of a motor vehicle, and one count of unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

According to authorities, O’Farrell was driving south on Route 10 near 272 Main St. in Northfield in an SUV that was pulling a trailer carrying a motorcycle at around 1 p.m. on May 29, 2022, at which time he crossed the center line and crashed into five motorcycles that were heading north in the oncoming lane.

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Jeremy Bucci, the case’s former prosecutor, previously explained O’Farrell was leaving a motocross event with his 10-year-old stepson and that boy’s 13-year-old friend when he stopped at a gas station. The 13-year-old reportedly told police he noticed O’Farrell was in possession of a white powder, which Bucci described as a “a telltale sign of heroin or cocaine.”

The 13-year-old reportedly told authorities that within minutes of leaving the gas station, O’Farrell began “nodding out.” Bucci previously said the 13-year-old was asked how he knew the term “nodding out,” and the teen responded that his own father struggles with heroin addiction. The slang term is associated with the use of narcotics.

Early questioned the credibility of the teenager’s testimony in court last week, when she argued that the state lacked sufficient evidence to charge O’Farrell with driving under the influence of drugs.

“It was a terrible accident, and aside from the victims, no one feels worse about it than my client, but it was not a DUI,” Early said last week.

Early previously argued that the teenage boy’s account of an alleged white powder could not be substantiated without additional evidence and noted that the juvenile was not a medical professional or expert on narcotics.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Early told Hodge that she had attempted to acquire the juvenile’s criminal records from Connecticut, but was not granted the records she needed. She said the teenager has been in Department of Youth Services custody “at least twice” but was unsure of the reasons why.

“Clearly, since he is such an important witness, having his record is extremely important,” Early said.

The defense’s motion to dismiss O’Farrell’s DUI charges remains under Hodge’s advisement, according to the Franklin County Superior Court Clerk’s Office.

Anthony Cammalleri can be reached at acammalleri@recorder.com or 413-930-4429.