SKOWHEGAN — The state’s highest court has denied an appeal by a Skowhegan man who sought to get his driver’s license reinstated after it was revoked permanently following a triple fatal, drunken-driving car crash in 1996.

Bryan Carrier, 35, drove a pickup truck at high speed through a stop sign on East Ridge Road in Skowhegan and slammed into a van heading east on U.S. Route 2.

Arlyce Jewell, 42, and her 10-year-old son, Alex, died in the crash. Royce Jewell Jr., Arlyce Jewell’s husband, was injured.

Elbert Knowles, 15, a passenger in the pickup, also died in the crash. Another passenger, Nicole Johnson, then 17, was seriously injured.

Carrier pleaded guilty in 1997 in Somerset County Superior Court to three counts of manslaughter and three counts of aggravated operating under the influence.

Carrier’s blood-alcohol level after the crash was 0.11. The legal limit is 0.08. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with all but two years suspended; six years of probation; and 2,000 hours of community service on the manslaughter conviction. On the OUI charge, Carrier was sentenced to two years in prison, to run at the same time as the manslaughter sentence, and ordered to pay $6,000 in fines.

His driver’s license was suspended for life, according to court documents. He was released on March 30, 1999, from the Charleston Correctional Facility.

In his appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, Carrier, through his attorneys, sought to reverse the decision denying reinstatement by a hearing officer with the state’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

The original judgment terminating Carrier’s right to drive was ordered by the trial judge in Somerset County Superior Court in June 1997.

Family members of the crash victims testified in opposition to Carrier’s appeal, emphasizing the effect of the crash, their wish to punish Carrier and their belief that the trial judge had ruled that his license would be suspended for life, according to court documents.

Tracey Rotondi, of Athens, daughter of Arlyce Jewell and sister of Alex, said this was not Carrier’s first bid to get his license back.

“To me, a lifetime is a lifetime,” she said Monday. “It just doesn’t seem right that Bryan Carrier can keep trying to get his license back after the judge ordered that it was supposed to be suspended for a lifetime. I think he ought to be able to live with that and stop making me relive this whole thing.”

Carrier contended that the only relevant issue before the high court was public safety. His family members testified that Carrier’s responsibility and attention to safety as manager of the family’s chipping plant should be the focus of the decision to reinstate his license.

Carrier needs to drive to Canada to visit his child and to attend to his duties getting to work and performing work-related duties, they said.

The high court disagreed, saying that while Carrier’s driving does not pose a risk to public safety now, his need to drive was less important than honoring the sentence imposed by the trial judge.

“Carrier argues that the hearing officer granted the family members veto power over reinstatement of his license. We disagree,” the justices wrote. “In this instance, at this point in time, the hearing officer found the testimony of the families more compelling than Carrier’s interests.”

Driving in Maine is not a right, they said, but a privilege.

Carrier’s lawyer, John Alsop, of Skowhegan, said he thinks Carrier should have gotten his license back based on similar cases in Maine.

“I think the Law Court basically ducked the issue,” he said Monday. “Our argument was that the failure to reinstate was a form of additional punishment, basically a double-jeopardy argument. In my opinion, they avoided dealing with the issue.”

Alsop said the decision leaves the door open for another formal appeal.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367
dharlow@centralmaine.com