NEW BEDFORD — City Councilor Hugh Dunn’s bench trial for an OUI charge, which was initially set for March and rescheduled to June 3, has been delayed again, with Friday’s court session listed instead as a hearing to review the case’s status.
The next court appearance, listed as a trial session, has been set for July 21 by Dunn’s attorney Timothy Walsh and the judge. The prosecutor, appointed by the commonwealth, was not present in the courtroom.
The Light has been trying to get answers on the reasons for both delays, but has been unsuccessful.
Dunn appeared in New Bedford District Court in early January for a pretrial hearing, during which a judge set the bench trial date for March. It was then delayed to June, with prosecutor Daniel Bennett previously telling The Light it was continued due to discovery issues related to an expert report.
The joint motion to continue the March 22 trial, filed March 17, stated both parties required additional time to gather and review relevant evidence, and referenced “an ongoing arbitration concerning this incident that involves the percipient witnesses.”
“The testimony elicited and results of the arbitration are necessary and relevant for both parties [sic] cross examination and trial preparation,” the motion stated.
The Light this week requested comment from Bennett and Walsh about the ongoing arbitration and who the “percipient witnesses” are; neither responded.
The Light again asked Walsh, this time Friday in court, about the motion and its mention of ongoing arbitration, to which Walsh said, “I don’t know about that” as he walked into the court’s closed-door room for lawyers.
The motion was submitted and signed by Walsh.
The Light also requested comment on Friday from Bennett on why the trial did not occur today as scheduled. He did not immediately respond.
Dunn was arraigned in court in early November on three charges: operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, leaving the scene of property damage and operating a motor vehicle negligently following a car crash on May 1, 2021, in downtown New Bedford.
A not guilty plea was entered during his arraignment.
In Massachusetts, defendants in criminal cases have the right to decide whether to have a jury trial or a bench trial — the latter in which a judge hears evidence and testimony before deciding the case without a jury.
According to a pretrial conference report filed with the court in January, the prosecution and defense collectively estimated calling more than 10 witnesses, with the trial to last one day.
Both attorneys questioned witnesses during Dunn’s clerk magistrate hearing last fall, which preceded his being charged.
A man who, according to records, witnessed the aftermath of the crash and called 911 died in March, per city records. He previously said that he did not see the crashes occur, just the aftermath, and that he took photos of the scene with his cell phone to show to police.
Dunn has been serving as Ward 3 City Councilor since the May crash, and was re-elected in fall of 2021 after running unopposed. He was first elected to City Council in 2017.
In April, he announced on Facebook that he joined Boston-based personal injury firm Kelly & Associates as an associate attorney.
Dunn appeared in court on Friday, but the judge excused him when it was determined the bench trial would not be taking place that day.
Email Anastasia E. Lennon at email@example.com.
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