LOWELL -- On the morning of March 11, 2013, police officers Dennis Moriarty and Daniel Otero responded to the Gulf station at 185 Woburn St. for a call "initiated by a 911 call reporting an intoxicated man driving into the lot," according to a Lowell Police Department Internal Affairs report.
That man was off-duty Andover police officer, Evan Robitaille. On Tuesday, Robitaille, 32, of Groveland, was indicted by a Middlesex County grand jury on charges of misleading a police officer, operating under the influence -- alcohol, reckless operation of a motor vehicle and leaving the scene of property damage stemming from a hit-and-run crash on I-495 in Tewksbury that morning. He is scheduled to be arraigned May 12 in Middlesex Superior Court.
Lowell police have charged Moriarty with officer "misconduct" for his handling of the incident. Last year, he received a letter of reprimand from then-Interim Police Superintendent Deborah Friedl for violating two department procedures on tows and having an unauthorized civilian, Robitaille, in a police cruiser.
Police Superintendent William Taylor, who took office Nov. 26, declined to discuss the Moriarty case in any detail, instead referring further inquiries to Friedl. Friedl could not be reached for comment. Moriarty also declined comment, citing the criminal case pending against Robitaille. Moriarty is president of the union that represents patrolmen, the Lowell Police Association.
During the internal-affairs investigation, Moriarty maintained that he did nothing wrong. He said that he had conducted "20-30 OUI (operating under the influence) investigations," and considers himself "fairly competent" in judging if someone is drunk.
According to sources, Lowell police did not know what happened last March 11 until then-Andover Police Chief Brian Pattullo told then-Police Superintendent Kenneth Lavallee. Lavallee retired in late March 2013.
According to court documents, State Police received a report at 9:30 a.m. on March 11. Box-truck driver Dennis Iacono of Salem, N.H., told police he was driving south on Interstate 495 in Tewksbury when he was struck in the left rear corner by an SUV. That car fled, leaving the highway at Woburn Street.
Robitaille allegedly drove into the Woburn Street Gulf/Dunkin Donuts complex and was confronted by a witness, according to court documents. The witness later told the cashier that Robitaille fled the scene of a crash and appeared intoxicated, court documents state.
The cashier and the complex manager said they saw Robitaille had trouble standing and appeared intoxicated. A security video shows the Honda Pilot, with Robitaille behind the wheel, exit the SUV as a pickup truck parks behind the SUV and that driver confronted Robitaille. Officials were able to enhance the pickup truck's registration number to track down the driver. Subsequently, Robitaille was summonsed to court on the criminal charges.
During the Andover police probe, Officer Daniel Devine allegedly told his superiors that he was on a break from a detail when he received a call from Robitaille asking him to pick him up at the McDonald's on Rogers Street in Lowell. Devine told Lowell investigators that "Robitaille may have been intoxicated. Devine stated that he can't dispute that he 'wasn't' either."
According to a Lowell police internal-affairs report, a copy of which was acquired by The Sun following a public-records request, both Moriarty and Otero told investigators that Robitaille "did not display any signs of being intoxicated.
"At one point during the interview Officer Moriarty noted that at first Robitaille seemed unsteady on his feet but Moriarty attributed this to the accident and the deployment of the airbags," states the report, written by Lt. Daniel R. Larocque.
Despite his veteran status as Lowell police officer and having overseen many OUI investigations, Moriarty told investigators he was not aware of the regulation that states, "No member or employee of this department shall solicit or assist in any way for a towing service. All requests for a towing service shall be referred to the station."
Larocque writes: "It can be understood that calling for a private tow is something that is done on a regular basis, but the fact that the tow operator was called directly by Officer Moriarty does give the appearance that something improper was being done. This investigation has not been able to locate enough evidence to prove that anything improper was done specifically to cover up an OUI accident by the responding officers as first thought prior to this investigation."
The tow was handled by Stuart's Towing, a city vendor. During the investigation, Kevin Stuart told Andover Lt. John Pathiakis that "the operator of the blue SUV was very intoxicated and was an Andover police officer."
Moriarty, however, told Lowell investigators that there was never any interaction between Robitaille and the tow truck operator, George Anstiss. The IA report also states: "It should be noted here that when I spoke with George Anstiss about the incident he told me that he never spoke to the operator of the vehicle he towed." Both Stuart and Anstiss stopped cooperating with the police investigation, Larocque said.
Moriarty also violated the department policy that states, "Citizens shall be transported in department vehicles only when necessary to accomplish police purpose. Such transportation shall be done in conformance with departmental policy or at the direction of a supervisor."
"Officer Moriarty reported during his interview that he did not know Robitaille prior to this incident," the IA report states. "As such he did not have a basis of knowledge of Robitaille normal behavior. Officer Moriarty also reported that he found no alcohol at the scene. He also denied that he did anything to assist Evan Robitaille in hiding his involvement in the accident in order to prevent him from being held accountable for his actions."
The IA report also notes that Moriarty never requested that Lowell dispatch contact either State Police or Tewksbury to see if either department had responded to an accident on I-495 that may have been connected to the call.
Otero did not violate any regulations, the report said.
Follow Christopher Scott on Twitter @cscottlowellsun.