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Senator apologizes for fleeing crash

Galluccio won’t detail latest citation

By Maria Cramer and Matt Viser
Globe Staff / October 7, 2009

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CAMBRIDGE - State Senator Anthony D. Galluccio apologized yesterday for rear-ending a family of four on Sunday afternoon and fleeing the scene, an accident that left one person with minor injuries, a Cambridge neighborhood shaken by his actions, and questions about what prompted his lapses behind the wheel.

It is the latest chapter in Galluccio’s checkered driving history: The 42-year-old senator has had repeated problems, including at least two previous accidents involving alcohol. In an interview yesterday, Galluccio refused to say whether he had been drinking alcohol before Sunday’s incident.

The Cambridge Democrat hit the family’s car with enough force that he left an imprint of his license plate on their van, which helped police track and cite him Monday with leaving the scene of an accident.

“It was very poor judgment and I have to accept responsibility for it,’’ Galluccio, a former Cambridge mayor and city councilor, said in a 9-minute interview at his State House office.

Galluccio declined to answer numerous questions, however. He refused to say, for example, where he was coming from or where he was going.

The incident is yet another example of a Massachusetts politician in trouble with the law. Galluccio said he did not plan to resign his seat or step down from his prominent post as Senate chairman of the Joint Committee on Higher Education.

“I’m here today to do my job, and that’s what I plan on continuing to do,’’ said Galluccio.

“There are no excuses for it,’’ he said. “I’m embarrassed. I’m facing that.’’

A citation was issued to Galluccio for leaving the scene after causing property damage and personal injury. If he is found to have left the scene, he could have his driver’s license revoked for 60 days, said Ann Dufresne, a spokeswoman for the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

A Middlesex County clerk could decide to send the case to prosecutors for criminal prosecution. If Galluccio were found guilty of leaving the scene, he could receive a sentence of six months to two years in jail and a fine of $500 to $1,000, according to state law.

The accident happened late Sunday afternoon when a 46-year-old motorist, with his wife, two children, and dog in their van, stopped at a light on Garden Street in Cambridge, just north of Harvard Square. The father was waiting, with his turn signal on, to make a left onto Linnaean Street. Before he could make the turn, Galluccio’s black Infiniti FX SUV smashed into the back of the van, according to a police report.

Galluccio said in the interview yesterday that he had been attempting to drive around the car.

Just after Galluccio rear-ended the van, he tried to slip away by turning quickly into the driveway of the Harvard Dance Center, according to police and a witness to the accident.

The witness, Kathryn Carr, a 35-year-old midwife who lives nearby, was walking back from a park with her husband and toddler when she saw Galluccio strike the family’s van and leave.

Carr said she assumed that Galluccio was looking for a place to park to exchange information but that he never came back.

“I was in disbelief,’’ she said. “You just can’t believe someone would leave the scene.’’

Galluccio was traveling about 20 to 25 miles per hour, according to the police report. He wasn’t operating the car in an erratic or reckless manner, Carr said, adding that when he turned the car up the driveway, he did so almost cautiously. “He took off at a normal pace, as if to not draw attention,’’ she said.

Witnesses gave police the license plate of the vehicle. The back of the victims’ van was smashed in and the bumper was twisted, Carr said.

The father was treated for back and neck injuries at Mount Auburn Hospital, according to the report, which redacted the family’s names. The mother complained of a little pain and so did her daughter, Carr recalled. The son appeared to be fine.

Carr remembered turning to the mother and saying, “Thank goodness your babies are all right.’’ The mother held her daughter close and patted her softly, Carr recalled, still shaken by what she saw.

When police tracked the license plate to Galluccio’s address in Cambridge and went to the home, no one answered the door and there was no sign of anyone inside, the report stated. Cambridge police say Galluccio came in voluntarily on Monday to report the accident, but it is unclear whether his conscience, or contact from police, sparked his admission.

Galluccio acknowledged yesterday that there was an “extra burden’’ on him because of his position.

“There was no reason for me to believe that there was personal injury,’’ he said. “However, that’s no excuse for leaving the scene, and I don’t want to make an excuse for leaving the scene.’’

Galluccio is the third Democratic senator in the past year to get into legal hot water. Dianne Wilkerson, a Roxbury Democrat, is facing corruption charges after being photographed by federal agents allegedly accepting a bribe, and James Marzilli, an Arlington Democrat, was indicted on charges of accosting four women in Lowell; both resigned last year.

Most state senators, emerging from a closed-door caucus yesterday, walked into the Senate chamber without addressing reporters. Many walked in pairs, engaging in chit-chat as they sought to avoid the cameras. Even Republicans, who have used every opportunity to pounce on their rivals, chose not to comment.

Galluccio’s actions, however, elicited pointed criticism from the Senate president.

“Well, obviously we’re extremely disappointed,’’ said Therese Murray.

“We think that public officials should be a little bit beyond what normal people are expected to be, and we think that the senator should, and I believe he has, taken responsibility for his actions. Nobody should leave the scene of an accident, especially an elected official, and I think he’s going to be dealing with that.’’

Asked whether the Senate would take any action to reprimand him, Murray said, “Well, first we have to see what the charges are.’’

Galluccio’s driving record includes two previous DUI convictions: one in 1984, when he was 17, and a second in 1997.

In December 2005, he triggered a four-car accident at a downtown Boston intersection at 2 a.m. No sobriety test was administered. A clerk-magistrate ruled that he had been drinking but that there was not enough evidence for a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Maria Cramer can be reached at mcramer@globe.com. Matt Viser can be reached at maviser@globe.com.