French Hill riot trial begins
NASHUA - Nearly two years ago, a clash between two groups of youths exploded into what police described as a gang riot on French Hill. On Tuesday, jurors began hearing evidence concerning events leading up to the riot and about charges against a young man accused of driving his car into a group of youths on the sidewalk along Cross Street. Michael Euliano, 20, of 7 Blackstone Drive, faces felony charges of second-degree assault, reckless conduct and leaving the scene of an accident with injury. Euliano and his friend William Vazquez, 19, of 298B Lake St., were the only persons to face felonies after the incident on Nov. 12, 2007. A few other youths were charged with misdemeanor offenses, and Vazquez later pleaded guilty to a reduced, misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge, admitting he was yelling while leaning out the window of Euliano’s car and swinging a baseball bat. He was sentenced to a year on probation. Euliano has been free on $50,000 bail while awaiting trial. He could face up to 3½ to seven years in prison on each charge, if convicted. His trial is expected to last several days. During opening statements Tuesday morning in Hillsborough County Superior Court, the prosecutor painted Euliano as a predator who circled the neighborhood several times, terrorizing youths who lived there by swerving toward them. Euliano’s lawyer, public defender Donald Topham, said Euliano simply got caught in the midst of a melee and drove onto the sidewalk only to avoid a large group of armed youths who were clogging the street. Euliano hit three youths on the sidewalk, and while two suffered only minor injuries, one was thrown through a fence and into another car, and his leg was shattered by Euliano’s car, requiring a permanent steel rod, said Assistant County Attorney Catherine Devine. The crash also broke the teen’s collarbone and dislocated two fingers, she said. Police arrived at the scene to see Euliano speeding away, Devine said. They also found “an angry crowd of young Hispanic males,” Topham said, some armed with machetes, pipes and other weapons, taunting and threatening officers. The situation prompted a veteran sergeant to use the “999” code, meaning “officer in need of assistance,” which drew every available officer in the city and a few from beyond, Topham said. Gunshots were fired later that night at the Canal Street residence of one of the teens involved in the fight, but no one was hit, and no one has been charged with the shootings. Police said the trouble started with an argument between two youths at the Amber Room Nightclub on the night of Nov. 11, police said. The youths agreed to fight outside Wendy’s on East Hollis Street, where Devine said a group including Vazquez and Euliano confronted another group of at least four teens, all from the French Hill neighborhood. The confrontation broke up after one of the youths brandished a machete, Devine said, and the French Hill group headed back to their neighborhood. So, however, did Euliano, though neither he nor his friends lived anywhere nearby, she said. “Mr. Euliano had many opportunities to go home, and take his friends home with their bat,” Devine said. Instead, she said, “He beat them back to their own neighborhood. He was lying in wait for them. He chased them around, up and down these streets.” While Euliano claims he was only trying to escape and acted in self-defense, Devine argued he could have - and should have - driven away at anytime before running down the teens on the sidewalk.