MANCHESTER - Nashua Mayor Bernie Streeter appears ready to fight a misdemeanor charge stemming from a minor traffic accident, and his trial is set for Feb. 10.
Streeter, 69, is charged with leaving the scene of a collision between his city-owned Crown Victoria and a Manchester taxicab on Oct. 23, without identifying himself to the cab driver.
The collision caused minor damage to both cars, but no one was hurt.
Streeter’s lawyer, Adam Bernstein of Nashua, declined to comment after a pretrial hearing Thursday on whether Streeter would consider a plea bargain in the case, saying only, “Mr. Streeter is going to exercise his constitutional rights.”
Bernstein asked Manchester District Court Judge Norman Champagne to set a deadline for any such plea deals, and Champagne obliged, picking Jan. 28.
Bernstein told Champagne he will ask the court to consider whether the cab driver, Eddie Mercier of Manchester, can testify against Streeter, or if he will assert his right to avoid self-incrimination.
Bernstein argues Mercier could have been charged, too.
“The same allegation (of failing to identify himself) could conceivably apply to Mr. Mercier,” Bernstein said.
If a judge finds Mercier could incriminate himself by testifying, the judge could rule that Mercier can’t be called as a witness unless prosecutors offer him immunity.
The prosecutor, attorney Michele Battaglia of the city solicitor’s office, wasn’t available for comment after the hearing Thursday morning.
Streeter has been free on personal recognizance since his arrest several days after the accident. If convicted as charged, he could face up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
Streeter doesn’t dispute that he collided with Mercier’s cab, Bernstein said.
“There clearly was an accident,” he said.
Police reported that Streeter’s city-owned 2002 Ford Crown Victoria collided with Mercier’s Queen City Taxi cab, a 1995 Crown Victoria, shortly before 11 a.m. Oct. 23 in downtown Manchester.
Streeter was driving north in the right lane of Pine Street, a two-lane, one-way street, and turning left onto Central Street, police said, when his car grazed the cab, which was heading north in the left lane of Pine Street.
Both drivers stopped, and Mercier told police Streeter approached him and swore at him after the accident. At one point, Mercier told police, Streeter pointed to his government license plate and asked, “Do you know who I am?”
Streeter left, saying that his lawyer would contact the taxi company, then parked nearby, in the private lot of an apartment complex near the Verizon Wireless Arena, police reported. Mercier called police, and pointed out Streeter’s car to an officer.
Streeter disputes the cabbie’s account, though he acknowledged the two had had words. Streeter gave a statement to police after he showed up at the station later that afternoon to ask where and why police had towed the car, police reported.
Andrew Wolfe can be reached at 594-6410 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appears in the Archive 2004 issue of New Hampshire Business Review