New Bedford man whose negligent driving resulted in death of Assonet woman convicted

“A 51-year-old New Bedford man was convicted by a jury of his peers late this afternoon in New Bedford District Court of Motor Vehicle Homicide by Negligent Operation in connection to the 2022 death of an Assonet woman, Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III announced.

The jury deliberated for less than an hour before returning its guilty verdict around 4 pm today. The trial began yesterday afternoon.

At around 2:30 am on August 20, 2022, state and local police were called to an area of Route 140 North in New Bedford after receiving a 911 call about a motor vehicle vs. pedestrian incident.

Evidence at trial showed that Christopher Noguera was driving northbound on Route 140 in his Ford F-150 when he crossed over into the breakdown lane and slammed into Joy Swartzendruber, who was standing next to her Toyota Avalon. Dash-cam video seized from the defendant’s vehicle showed that the victim was clearly standing off the roadway when the defendant’s truck first impacted the rear driver’s side of her vehicle and then into her and other portions of her vehicle. Her vehicle had all its lights on and was visible to other motorists on the highway. The victim was pronounced deceased at the scene.

The video also showed the defendant driving negligently during the minutes before the crash. His vehicle could be seen frequently drifting from lane to lane and into the breakdown lane in the moments before the crash.

The defendant remained on scene after the crash and was not impaired or excessively speeding. However, the jury found he clearly was operating his motor vehicle in a negligent manner, which directly led to the fatal incident.

The maximum sentence allowable for the charge is two-and-a-half years in the house of corrections.

Assistant District Attorney Patrick Driscoll, who prosecuted the case, argued that the defendant should be sentenced to two-and-a-half years in the house of corrections with two years to serve and the balance of the sentence suspended for three years. The defense requested minimal jail time.

Judge Kristen Stone, however, sentenced the defendant to two years in the house of corrections, with one year to serve and the balance of the sentence was suspended for three years. This “split sentence” means if the defendant is charged with a new crime during the three years after his eventual release from jail, he could be liable to serve the remaining year of the jail term. The defendant also had his driver’s license revoked for 15 years.

“The defendant’s negligent operation of his pickup truck resulted in a terrible tragedy that could easily have been avoided. The victim was clearly in the breakdown lane when the defendant struck and killed her. My heart goes out the family for their terrible loss. I hope today’s verdict, and the sentence imposed by the court, provides some consolation to them,” District Attorney Quinn said.”