For the second time in three weeks a well-known Somerville lawyer rejected an agreement that would place him on probation for his role in the death of a 22-year-old Tufts student.
Frank Privitera is scheduled to go on trial April 29, charged with negligent motor vehicle homicide for a November 2005 traffic accident that killed Boryana Damyanova, who had come to Somerville from Bulgaria to study international relations.
On Tuesday, Privitera's attorney Michael Hanley told Judge Maurice Flynn he was “one millisecond” away from reaching an agreement that would resolve the case. Privitera, Hanley said, was ready to agree to pre-trial probation and a five-year loss of his driver's license but had one concern: he wanted the Middlesex District Attorney's Office to state in writing to the Registry of Motor Vehicles that they had no opposition to Privitera retaining his right to drive in the event of an emergency.
The district attorney's office has a policy of not taking a position on decisions made by the RMV. And despite a 20 minute recess in which Hanley and assistant district attorney Nicole Allain met in private, no agreement was reached and a trial was scheduled.
Privitera's legal troubles began on Nov. 22, 2005 when, on his drive home to Arlington from his Union Square law office, he allegedly struck Damyanova and threw her to the other side of the street where she was struck again by an oncoming truck. She was pronounced dead an hour later at Somerville Hospital.
Authorities said Damyanova was in a well-lit crosswalk talking on her cell phone when Privitera struck her. At the time of the collision it was raining but prosecutors allege if Privitera had been “reasonably attentive” he would have had enough time and distance to avoid striking Damyanova.
Investigators concluded speed and alcohol were not involved in the collision. Privitera said he was driving 13 miles per hour when he struck Damyanova.
“I got out of the car and I thought she was going to jump up and be okay,” he told The Somerville News on Tuesday.
Two weeks ago, for a few moments, the case was actually resolved. However, after Allain, Flynn and Privitera's own lawyer stated repeatedly in open court that he would receive a sentence of pre-trial probation and lose his driver's license for five years, Privitera reacted in shock when he heard the specifics of the deal and reversed the agreement minutes later.
Tuesday's court appearance also featured its share of theatrics. At one point when Flynn was out of the courtroom, Privitera approached Allain apparently to discuss his case.
Holding her hands up to Privitera, Allain said, “Sir, you have an attorney, I won't meet with you.”
Privitera also approached a reporter to complain about press coverage of the incident, drew a sketch detailing traffic movement the night of the accident and tried to make the case for his innocence.
Calling a five-year loss of his driver's license a “death sentence,” Privitera, who arrived at court with a driver, said he needed to drive his wife to the doctor's twice a month and church twice a week.
“And then I go to charitable events and give money that offers people help and relief. Now those people will be suffering,” he said.
Privitera's lawyers submitted a packet to Flynn detailing his many charitable contributions over the years. He told The Somerville News he had donated close to $5 million to various organizations in his lifetime. He also told The News he provided a $4 million civil settlement to Damyanova's family.
“But they come after me because I have a high-profile,” he said.
Privitera is well known in Somerville as an attorney and landowner. He is originally from Hale Street in Boston's West End but came to the city in 1948. He owns blocks of land here including 422 Mystic Ave., 59 Union Square, 88 Beacon Street and 9 Davis Square. He worked in the city's legal department under former Mayor Larry Bretta from 1962 to 1967.
If convicted of negligent motor vehicle homicide Privitera could face up to two years in jail and a 15-year loss of his driver's license.