By Marissa Lang, Globe Correspondent, and John R. Ellement, Globe Staff
HAVERHILL -- Former Massachusetts Turnpike chairman Matthew Amorello failed to appear in court today to face drunken driving charges, leading a Haverhill District Court judge to issue a default warrant for the man who once oversaw one of the largest public works projects in the state's history.
A court official told Haverhill District Court Judge Stephen Abany this morning that Amorello is currently hospitalized at the UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester. The reason for his hospitalization was not specified in court.
However, a spokeswoman said in a telephone interview that Amorello is not listed in the hospital's patient database. Citing federal health privacy laws, she could not say whether Amorello had been a patient at any time since his arrest early Saturday morning.
Abany issued a default warrant, which makes him subject to arrest by police. Amorello, or any one else facing a default warrant, can also come into the courthouse on their own.
Amorello still faces arraignment on a drunken driving charge and two counts of leaving the scene after causing property damage.
According to a Haverhill police report filed in court, Amorello was so drunk he slept on the floor of the police station while he was being booked early Saturday morning. Police also said they had to hold up Amorello's head so a booking photograph could be taken, the report said.
Police also said that after Amorello allegedly smashed into two parked cars, he tried to drive away – even though the front left wheel had fallen off his vehicle. A witness told police he "observed flames shooting from the suspect's motor vehicle as he was driving without a front left wheel.''
The first officer on the scene found Amorello sitting behind the wheel of his damaged car in a parking lot on River Street. The officer tried to talk with him, but was unable to do so, the report said.
"He seemed to be out of it,'' police wrote. When the officer asked Amorello for his license and registration, "all he could say was, 'come on,' '' police said in the report.
Officers told Amorello that they wanted him to step out of the vehicle, an order he refused to comply with. Instead, Amorello grabbed hold of the steering wheel, and despite twice being hit with pepper spray in the face, he refused to let go.
Officers dragged him out of his vehicle and then had to drag him across the parking lot to a waiting police cruiser.
"Once he was at the cruiser it took all three of us to get him inside,'' police said in the report. Amorello is 6 feet tall and weighs 250 pounds, according to the report. "And all we could do was lay him in the rear seat.''
Amorello was then taken to the station where he slept through the booking process and had to be dragged to a holding cell, police said. Police said in the report he was charged with drunken driving because he smelled of alcohol, had glassy eyes, and could not speak. He was too drunk to be given a chemical breath test, police said.
Amorello was in charge of the Big Dig construction project after he was appointed chairman of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority in 2002. He was forced out by Governor Mitt Romney after a piece of the tunnel ceiling collapsed, killing a woman who was a passenger in a car.
Since then, Amorello founded a company focused on solar energy work and has consulted for it during the last year and a half, his brother said.
Amorello came under fire again in 2009 when the State Ethics Commission fined him for violating the conflict-of-interest law by participating in policy-making decisions while knowing he had a financial interest.
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