WOBURN (CBS) — A hearing in the case of the man charged in the deadly Sweet Tomatoes crash last year focused on Multiple Sclerosis–the debilitating disease which may have played a factor in his driving through the restaurant.
Bradford Casler is charged with two counts of motor vehicle homicide and one count of operating a motor vehicle to endanger. He’s considering a guilty plea, depending on the judge’s sentencing recommendation.
Casler drove through an intersection and into the Newton Sweet Tomatoes restaurant on March 1, 2016.
Eleanor Miele, 57, and Gregory Morin, 32, were killed in the crash, and several others were injured.
Casler’s attorney, Tom Giblin, says Casler’s MS caused the crash. Prosecutors claim it did not, and say speed played a factor.
“This is an accident that took place, and he had a medical episode that caused him to lose control of his vehicle,” Giblin told WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens.
In a victim impact statement given at Casler’s last hearing, Morin’s widow said Casler got into his car knowing the risks of his disease–but Giblin told WBZ-TV’s Christina Hager that no doctor ever told Casler he should not be driving.
Dr. Ellen Lathi of the Elliot Lewis Center for Multiple Sclerosis in Wellesley testified first in Middlesex Superior Court Thursday, speaking about Multiple Sclerosis in general terms–not specifically about Casler’s diagnosis.
“This is the most common disabling disease of young people in the United States,” Dr. Lathi said.
About 10,000 people in Massachusetts are affected by the disease. She said there is no cure, but MS patients often have a normal life expectancy.
“This is a severe disease that in the untreated population leads to physical impairment and disability in about 75 percent of people within the first 8 to 15 years,” Dr. Lathi said.
She said fatigue, hearing and vision loss, pain, loss of motor skills, and cognitive impairment were all symptoms of the disease, and that sleep deprivation and stress can exacerbate them.
She told the court she knew Casler, but had never treated him.
Carol Cafferty, Superintendent of Middlesex Jail, testified about the accommodations made for prisoners with disabilities like MS.
Giblin grilled Cafferty on efforts to provide for disabled prisoners, and said he believes Casler would not survive in prison–but Cafferty said “we try to get services in as best as we can” for prisoners with immediate disability needs, MS treatment included.
Giblin believes said the jail wouldn’t be able to provide for his needs, and that they would come at a tremendous cost to taxpayers.
Casler will return to court October 2 to tell the judge whether or not he will decide to plead guilty.
Sweet Tomatoes had extensive damage and was boarded up for months. Last summer, safety bollards were installed in front of the shop.
The restaurant reopened last month, 18 months after the tragic crash.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens reports