Saturday, 2:15 PM
Judge questions criminal case against former T bus driver
By John R. Ellement, Globe Staff
CHELSEA – A district court judge today sharply questioned why a former MBTA bus driver is facing criminal charges for lying to Transit Police when there may be evidence showing she was shot at while driving her bus in Chelsea in 2007.
Speaking from the bench during the arraignment of the now-fired bus driver, Nancy Parker, Judge James LaMothe said he saw nothing in a Transit Police report to warrant charging Parker with lying to police.
The judge said the report made it clear that Parker changed her story about the motive for the attack – she first said it was random but then alleged a former lover dispatched an armed man to collect a debt.
But, the judge suggested, that failed to meet the legal standards for a criminal complaint.
“Tell me what she lied about,’’ LaMothe demanded of Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Lindade.
Lindade pointed to the way Parker allegedly changed her version of the events onboard the Route 111 bus as she was driving it through Chelsea on the afternoon of Oct. 2, 2007. Parker had told Transit Police that a white male clambered onto her bus, pulled out a handgun and fired as she sat in the driver's seat.
A bullet, Parker told police in the report, which was filed in court, came so close to hitting her "she could feel the wind from it pass by her thigh.'' As Parker tried to run to safety out the rear door of the bus, the man grabbed her and threw her into the farebox, injuring her back. He then threw her facedown onto the floor, grabbed her wallet, and then stood above her.
"He fired three more rounds from the firearm in her direction,'' Transit Police said in the report, citing Parker's account. "Parker said she had her right hand and arm covering her head to avoid being shot. She ... could again feel the breeze from the bullets pass by her head and arm. Parker said the bullets hit her jacket, however, never touched her body.''
Parker gave police her T jacket, which had apparent bullet holes in one arm. Police said in an affidavit that "the jacket was not too large for her and had little room for movement.''
When asked for a motive for the shooting, Parker allegedly told police that she believed it was a random attack by a pimple-faced white male who decided to target a passing bus driver.
Lindade said that when reinterviewed by detectives this January, Parker dramatically changed her story, so much so that detectives had no choice but to charge her with lying to police.
In her new version, Parker said the attack was not random, but an act of revenge from a former lover who also worked at the MBTA. Parker told detectives her former lover held her responsible for being forced into bankruptcy by charging up to $5,000 on a credit card in the early 1990s.
Prosecutors and Transit Police allege that Parker has deliberately misled investigators since police and news media crews rushed to the bus, which had stopped near the intersection of Garfield Avenue and Exeter Street.
But Parker's defense lawyer, Mandy Hebert, said in court that ballistic evidence backs Parker's story -- a bullet was recovered from the driver's seat, the lawyer said -- and the motive of a thief is not for a crime victim to determine.
"A robbery is a robbery,'' said Hebert, who declined to comment after the hearing.
LaMothe did not rule on whether to keep the case against Parker alive, but rejected prosecutors' request to set bail for Parker at $1,000 cash. He ordered her released on personal recognizance. Parker declined to comment.
Transit Police Lieutenant Mark Gillespie said in a telephone interview after the court hearing that Parker's varying accounts of what happened are not supported by the evidence collected by investigators.
"The facts, as reported, were not true,'' he said. "Miss Parker has deliberately led us away from the true facts of the case.''
He added that detectives are confident Parker will be convicted at trial.