KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON -- The chairman of the Sunderland Select Board pleaded guilty by waiver Tuesday to a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence of alcohol, which he was charged with after crashing his vehicle shortly before Christmas in 2011.
Mark T. Hyde, 43, of North Road in Sunderland, pleaded guilty in Bennington Superior Court Criminal Division to a first of offense of "DUI #1 greater than legal limit." As part of a plea agreement, the state dropped a charge of "DUI #1 influence," and negligent vehicle operation. Hyde agreed to pay a $750 fine by May 12 and was assessed $414 in surcharges. Hyde’s attorney, William D. Wright, did not return calls Tuesday seeking comment, and attempts to reach Hyde were not successful.
As part of the plea agreement, Hyde stipulated that on Dec. 20, 2011 he was driving his truck on North Road when he went off the road and hit a tree. Severely inured, he was brought to Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, where he was processed for DUI. A sample of his blood was taken and analyzed, showing his blood-alcohol content to be .098 percent, which is over the .08 percent legal limit.
According to an affidavit by Vermont State Trooper Robert Zink, on Dec. 20 at 3:15 p.m. he responded to the area of 2954 North Road where it was reported that a 2009 Nissan truck had gone off the road, hit a tree and that the driver was trapped in the vehicle. When Zink arrived the Arlington Rescue Squad was preparing to take Hyde to the hospital in Bennington. Zink said he knew the vehicle, which sustained heavy front-end damage, was registered to Hyde but could not immediately confirm the identity of the driver. In an attempt to make that identification, Zink said he retrieved a cell phone from within the crashed truck. Zink noted a text message conversation on the phone in which two parties were discussing plans to drink beer at "Madison’s" at noon.
Zink learned the cell phone was Hyde’s when his wife, Gwen Hyde, called it. Zink informed her of her husband’s situation and she said she would be going to SVMC to meet him there.
Hyde suffered a broken foot, leg, and sternum, fractured ribs, bruised pelvis, internal bleeding, head lacerations, and a concussion from the crash, according to Zink, who said he could smell alcohol in Hyde’s treatment room as he was being prepared for transfer to Albany Medical Center in New York.
"I attempted to speak with Hyde while he was in a treatment room and he could not keep awake/conscious," Zink wrote. "Hyde was not aware of what day of the week it was, where he currently was and what was happening to him."
Zink said Hyde’s speech was heavily slurred and his eyes were bloodshot and watery. Hyde could not understand the Miranda form Zink presented to him and kept drifting in and out of consciousness.
The incident was reported by Tanya Swett who said she was driving on North Road and came across Hyde’s vehicle after it had crashed. She called her boyfriend, Adam Mugni, who arrived and got Hyde out of the vehicle. Mugni told police he detected no signs of alcohol consumption as he waited with Hyde for rescue personnel to arrive. Mugni said he recognized Hyde from seeing him drive up North Road often at a high rate of speed. He told police he had been meaning to stop the driver and ask him to slow down because he feared a crash would occur.
Hyde was appointed to the Select Board in May 2011. He became board chairman in December of last year after the board took umbrage with a letter its former chairman, Joe Boutin, had sent to local newspapers expressing his disagreement with the board over plans for a new town garage. Hyde was recently elected to a three-year seat on the board. He ran unopposed.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.