By Eric Francis
(This article first appeared in the Sept. 12, 2013 edition of the Vermont Standard.)
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — The Bridgewater man who hit a horseback rider on Route 106 in March struck a plea agreement Wednesday morning that resulted in a suspended sentence and a permanent surrender of his driver’s license.
Lawrence Allen, 64, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of careless and negligent operation of a vehicle, a charge that was reduced down from the original felony gross negligent operation charge that had originally been filed against him.
Both prosecutors and Allen’s defense attorney intimated that the relatively lenient outcome took into consideration the fact that Allen, who is diabetic, is currently under hospice care at his home.
Allen pleaded innocent in May to the collision which sent both Anne-Marie Savino, 54, of West Windsor and Christina Phillips, 28, to the hospital for treatment of concussions and other injuries and resulted in the horse that Savino was riding, a half-Morgan, half-Arabian competition horse named Annie, having to be put down at the scene by a veterinarian.
Phillips was in the lead and Savino was on “Annie” singlefile behind her as they returned to the Kedron Valley Stables after an hour-long ride, the pair recalled in statements that were incorporated into a crash report prepared by Woodstock Police Officer Joseph Swanson.
Phillips said they had both looked for traffic and seen nothing coming before entering onto a small concrete bridge and were almost halfway across when she suddenly “heard tires” and turned her head just in time to see Allen’s pickup headed straight for the horse behind her. Phillips said she barely had time to yell and turn back to grab hold of her own horse when she felt “Annie” being thrown against them and saw Savino hit the ground.
Phillips said Allen drove around the downed animals, parked, and walked back to the injured women, saying, “I didn’t hit you. I’ve never been in an accident,” as he approached them.