A then-Maine Marine Patrol officer who was driving a pickup truck the wrong way on Route 1 in Damariscotta when he struck a tractor-trailer head-on last summer has admitted to operating under the influence at the time of the crash.
Brandon E. Bezio, 26, of Cushing and formerly of Tenants Harbor, pleaded guilty to class C (aggravated) criminal OUI, a felony, March 26, according to court documents. The charge is aggravated because the crash caused “serious bodily injury.” If Bezio follows certain rules for a year, the charge will be reduced to class D OUI, a misdemeanor.
Bezio would then be sentenced to 364 days in jail with all but 90 days suspended, plus a year of probation. He would also receive a 150-day license suspension and a $1,000 fine, according to court documents.
His probation conditions would prohibit the possession or use of alcohol or illegal drugs, require him to submit to random searches and tests to ensure compliance, and require counseling for substance abuse, according to Assistant District Attorney Matthew Gerety.
The plea was part of an agreement known as a deferred disposition, which delays sentencing and requires a defendant to meet certain conditions.
The agreement requires Bezio to complete 100 hours of community service; complete an evaluation and, if necessary, treatment for substance abuse; and pay restitution – $2,125 to the Damariscotta Fire Department and $536.96 to Colby & Gale Inc. – over the next year.
The agreement contains several other conditions standard to all such agreements. For example, he must not commit another crime.
If he violates the agreement, he would face up to the maximum penalty for the felony OUI.
Bezio was driving a 2011 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck north in the southbound lane of Route 1 early Saturday, July 1, according to a statement from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office after the collision. Edgar A. Garcia-Rivera, 26, of Springfield, Mass., was driving a 2014 Volvo tractor-trailer south in the southbound lane.
The collision was in the area of Midcoast Road. A median divides Route 1 in the area.
Bezio had been driving in the wrong lane for about a quarter-mile when he struck the tractor-trailer, according to the statement. Garcia-Rivera attempted to avoid the pickup, but was not able to do so.
A female passenger in the Bezio vehicle was ejected and sustained serious but non-life-threatening injuries, according to the sheriff’s office. She was not believed to have been wearing a seat belt.
A male passenger in the sleeping compartment of the tractor-trailer complained of back pain.
Bezio and Garcia-Rivera were wearing their seat belts and were not hurt.
The accident was reported at 2:31 a.m.
The Central Lincoln County Ambulance Service, Damariscotta Fire Department, Damariscotta Police Department, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, Maine State Police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement, and Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene.
Lincoln County Sheriff’s Deputy Jonathan Colby was the investigating officer.
Bezio was a marine patrol officer at the time of the crash. His patrol area was from St. George to Warren in Knox County.
The Maine Lobstermen’s Association had named Bezio the 2017 Marine Patrol Officer of the Year in March 2017.
After the crash, a spokesman for the Maine Department of Marine Resources said the Maine Marine Patrol would conduct an internal investigation. The Maine Marine Patrol is the law enforcement arm of the DMR.
Bezio left the agency shortly thereafter. He was an employee from Jan. 22, 2013 until Aug. 11, 2017, according to a DMR spokesman.
The spokesman declined to comment on the circumstances of Bezio’s departure.
Bezio will return to court for a hearing to determine the outcome of the case at 1 p.m., March 25, 2019.
He is free on personal-recognizance bail, which means his promise to appear.
His bail conditions prohibit the physical possession or use of alcohol or illegal drugs and require him to submit to random searches to ensure compliance.
The conditions also require him to comply with the terms of the deferred disposition.
District Attorney Jonathan Liberman represented the state.
The Portland law firm Nichols & Churchill P.A. represented Bezio. The firm did not respond to a request for comment.