November 30, 2012

RI man pleads not guilty in fatal Biddeford crash

Christopher Bennett, 20, is charged with manslaughter and operating under the influence in connection with the crash that killed his friend.

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

ALFRED — A Rhode Island man accused of a drunken driving crash that killed his friend in Biddeford made only his first appearance Friday in Superior Court, but already prosecutors showed signs of being ready for trial.

Christopher Bennett, 20, of Johnston, R.I., pleaded not guilty to charges of manslaughter and operating under the influence, death resulting, for the Sept. 2 crash that claimed the life of his friend, Anthony Ciccone, 20, of Pepperell, Mass.

Bennett, dressed in a tie and jacket, appeared briefly before Justice John O'Neil to be arraigned, to enter his plea and have his previously posted bail amount of $25,000 cash affirmed. He then walked out of the courtroom. His next court date has not been set.

Although this was Bennett's first appearance in York County Superior Court since his indictment, prosecutors pre-empted the appearance by filing a list of witnesses they plan to call if the case against Bennett goes to trial.

The witness list, entered in Bennett's case file on Nov. 23, includes the names of five firefighters, eight police officers, three University of New England security officers, six Univerity of New England students, a local Biddeford resident, a chemist and a medical doctor.

Before the crash, Biddeford police were called to the University of New England campus in Biddeford on Sept. 2 by the university's security staff for assistance with two intoxicated men who were creating a disturbance in Sokokis Hall, police said.

The men were not students, but were looking for a 21-year-old male friend who lives in the residence hall, police said at the time.

UNE security could not stop the two men, who left campus and drove toward the center of Biddeford, police said. Police saw a vehicle with a matching description – a dark Ford Explorer with Rhode Island license plates – speeding on Pool Street but lost sight of it.

Another officer reported that the vehicle hit a utility pole on Pool Street as it was headed downtown. Ciccone was taken to Southern Maine Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

This story will be updated.

Staff Writer Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at sdolan@mainetoday.com

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