MANCHESTER — Former Manchester police officer David Connare was convicted this week of a single felony charge stemming from a high-speed accident on Interstate 93 last year.
Connare avoided a conviction on a drunken-driving misdemeanor charge, as well as two assault-related charges. The trial was held Monday and Tuesday at Hillsborough County Superior Court-North.
At the time of the Oct. 16 accident, Connare was an officer with 21 years of experience and the Patrolmen's Union president. He resigned his job and union position days after the crash. Connare is also a step-son of Raymond Wieczorek, a former Manchester mayor and New Hampshire executive councilor.
A jury found Connare guilty of reckless conduct with a deadly weapon — his vehicle — a felony that allows for a prison sentence of 3 1/2 to seven years.
"Any conviction on a Class B felony, it's a major accomplishment. It opens the possibility for major punishment," said Merrimack County Attorney Scott Murray.
His office prosecuted the case to avoid any appearance of impropriety for the Hillsborough County Attorney.
The crash took place about 7 p.m. on I-93 southbound, just south of the Exit 6 interchange.
At the time, state police said speed and alcohol were contributing factors. Connare, who was off-duty at the time, drove his Mazda A-3 compact into the rear of a Mazda Tribute SUV. Police said Connare's car pushed the SUV off the road and into a bridge abutment. The driver, Hudson resident Heather O'Regan, suffered fractured ribs.
The jury delivered the verdicts in the reckless conduct, second-degree felony assault and vehicular assault charges.
Procedures call for judges to rule on Class B misdemeanors. Superior Court Judge Kenneth Brown rendered the not-guilty verdict on the drunken-driving charge.
"Upon reflection of the testimony, evidence, and the closing arguments of the counsel, the court finds that the state has failed to meet its burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant operated a motor vehicle under the influence of intoxicating liquor," Brown wrote in the court file.
Connare's attorney, Nashua-lawyer Eric Wilson, did not return a telephone call. The prosecutor who handled the case was not available for comment Thursday. Murray, his boss, said he did not know if Connare consented to a blood-alcohol test.
State law allows police to charge a drunk driver with a felony if a person is injured in an accident. However, Murray said prosecutors don't always bring the felony charge.
"As a tactical matter, if you prosecute a (felony) DWI and you don't prove intoxication, you've got a problem," he said. He said the penalty for a felony DWI conviction is the same as the reckless conduct conviction.
However, Connare will avoid immediate license revocation. Connare's sentencing had not been scheduled as of Thursday. Murray said he's yet to speak to the prosecutor about a possible sentence.
"Obviously, the area where it happened — on an interstate highway — there are serious public safety concerns," he said.