NEW BEDFORD — New Bedford City Councilor Hugh Dunn is now set to stand trial in October for OUI and other charges stemming from a May of 2021 late night car crash.
Dunn appeared in New Bedford District Court Thursday for a status hearing, where he waived his right to a jury trial and instead opted for a bench trial in which the judge will determine whether the Commonwealth proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed the alleged crimes.
His bench trial was originally set for March of 2022, but his attorney Tim Walsh filed a joint motion in March requesting more time due to arbitration involving witnesses.
Walsh discussed the ongoing arbitration again Thursday when the judge asked why Dunn’s case has been in the status phase for so long, with the defense attorney stating the arbitration might include testimony that conflicts with testimony provided during the “clerk’s hearing.”
Dunn had a clerk magistrate hearing, also known as a show cause hearing, in September of 2021, during which several people provided testimony on the car crash, its aftermath and Dunn’s alleged behavior, including responding New Bedford police officer Jesse Branagan.
Walsh told the judge that he believes the arbitration, which involves “percipient witnesses,” has ended and that a decision is due at the end of this month.
The Light asked Walsh outside of the courtroom about this ongoing arbitration. Walsh did not stop to talk, instead saying to The Light reporter, “You’re the investigator,” as he walked back into the active court session.
New Bedford Police Union president Ofc. Christopher Cotter said the three responding officers to the crash — Abraham Nazario, Algimantas Harrell and Branagan — are involved in arbitration to appeal their suspensions.
Police Chief Paul Oliveira in September of 2021 issued 20-day and 3-day suspensions to the officers without pay.
Cotter said the arbitration is not being handled by the police union counsel and could not comment on it further. He said he did not know when the arbitration started.
City spokesperson Mike Lawrence said the arbitration ruling for the three officers is pending. The other party to the arbitration is the City of New Bedford.
Walsh told the judge that September would be a good time for the bench trial as it would give him enough time to obtain any relevant transcripts from the arbitration.
Per police reports, Dunn hit two parked cars after consuming alcoholic beverages at Cork Wine and Tapas, and subsequently eloped from the hospital, where staff did not draw Dunn’s blood for medical purposes.
He was charged with OUI, leaving the scene of property damage and negligent operation of a motor vehicle after a Massachusetts State Police detective assigned by the Bristol district attorney investigated the case. The New Bedford Police Department did not issue any citations or charges after the crash and subsequently disciplined the three officers for mishandling the incident.
Dunn has continued to serve as the Ward 3 city councilor after being re-elected in 2021, running unopposed. This spring, he joined Boston-based personal injury firm Kelly & Associates as an associate attorney.
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