Alleged serial drunk driver remains held

·4 min read

Sep. 24—DANVERS — A Maine restaurant owner charged with drunken driving for the sixth time since 1983 will remain in custody, at least for now, pending a hearing to determine whether he poses a danger to the public.

David Peck, 58, of York Beach, was arrested on the night of Feb. 7 after state troopers were called about an episode of "road rage" — triggered, apparently, by Peck's frustration at being delayed by a line of snowplows across Route 95 southbound in Rowley, police said. Police say he sideswiped and then repeatedly rammed another vehicle after attempting to pass it. That driver and others had slowed down behind the snowplows.

Eventually, after the plows pulled off the highway, Peck's Acura was seen speeding up to between 85 and 100 miles an hour, according to a police report.

When state troopers caught up with Peck in Danvers, near the exit for the Ferncroft Rotary, he had crashed into a guardrail.

Months earlier, he'd been placed on probation for drunken driving following a January 2020 arrest in Newbury.

Peck made his initial appearance by video in Salem Superior Court on Thursday to be arraigned on a set of indictments in the February drunken driving case. He pleaded not guilty to charges of fifth offense drunken driving, driving to endanger, leaving the scene of an accident, and resisting arrest. He could face up to five years in prison if found guilty.

Peck is also currently serving a two-year jail term, imposed in March, after a Newburyport District Court judge found that the new offense was a violation of probation in Peck's 2020 case.

But defense lawyer David Yanetti said in court Thursday that his client is "anxious" to have this new case move as quickly as possible, insisting on a full hearing on prosecutor Michael Varone's request for detention by next week.

Yanetti told Judge Salim Tabit that if Peck is acquitted in the new case, the judge in Newburyport might consider reducing that two-year jail term. The lawyer also said he expects to file motions to suppress evidence from the February arrest, as well as a motion to dismiss the indictments.

Tabit pointed to the increasingly-crowded docket, as the court returns to in-person proceedings and deals with a backlog of cases. He scheduled a hearing for next Thursday afternoon.

Peck's record of driving offenses dates back to his teenage years, according to court filings, and his first drunken driving conviction came in 1983, followed by subsequent convictions in 1987 and 2003 in Maine.

But the age of those cases and uncertainty over the disposition of a 2017 drunken driving case in York, Maine — in which Peck was charged after allegedly abandoning his crashed car and subsequently found sitting on the floor of the handicapped stall in the men's room at one of the restaurants he owns — led to him being charged with a first offense of drunken driving after the 2020 stop on Highfield Road in Newbury.

Peck originally admitted to sufficient facts in that case and was granted a continuance without a finding for a year. He was ordered to follow other conditions typical of a first offense.

After his arrest in February, Judge Peter Doyle converted the disposition to a "guilty" finding and imposed a two-year jail term, according to court filings.

Peck's arrest made headlines in February after state police issued a press release citing the number of prior cases. However, as the state was in the process of changing highway exit numbers along Route 95, the author of the press release mistakenly identified the location of the initial incident as Reading, where exit 54 is now located, instead of Rowley, where exit 54 has been renamed Exit 78.

And while conditions of release were initially set for Peck after his arrest in February, he has remained in custody because of the 2020 case.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis

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