PARIS SUD — The man accused of seriously injuring a 28-year-old Portland woman during a police chase in Oxford County on Friday should have lost his license in July, but state courts and the Bureau of Motor Vehicles did not proceed with the suspension.
The bureaucratic error means Ethan Rioux-Poulios, of Woodstock, had a valid license when he allegedly got behind the wheel of his father’s silver F-150 pickup truck on Friday and led police on a chase, injuring two people and destroying a second vehicle. before his arrest, according to the police.
One of the injured, Nicole Kumiega, remains in critical condition at Maine Medical Center.
Rioux-Poulios pleaded guilty last July to one count of manslaughter stemming from another police pursuit, in 2019, when he crashed his car into another vehicle, killing a 70-year-old Norwegian. At his sentencing on July 15 Oxford County Superior Court Judge Thomas McKeon ordered that Rioux-Poulios’ license be suspended indefinitely.
Under state law, it is up to the courts to file a form — called a conviction summary — with the BMV. This form serves as an official notice that the BMV should go ahead with a suspension. But it was never sent, Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows said.
“If there’s a court-ordered stay, the court has to tell us, and that didn’t happen,” Bellows said. “Obviously this is unacceptable, and we will work in partnership with the courts to ensure this does not happen again.”
Bellows said his office was already working on the error when a Press Herald reporter inquired about the status of Rioux-Poulios’ license, which appeared to still be active even though in July the judge had ordered that it will be off the roads for at least a decade, according to a Sun Journal article.
“When a motorist has killed someone, then we at BMV need to do everything in our power to seek the legally required justification that will give us the tools to move forward with the suspension to get this out. road person,” the secretary of the state said. “Bureaucracy cannot stand in the way of this. But in this case, he did.
According to court records and the Department of Corrections, after his July 15 guilty plea, Rioux-Poulios was ordered to serve two years of a seven-year sentence followed by two years of probation. Rioux-Poulios was released on probation in August, but court records do not say exactly why. His early release may be an indication that the time he spent in jail awaiting trial after the May 2019 crash counted towards his sentence.
LETTER SENT TO BMV
On July 21, Assistant District Attorney Richard Beauchesne, the prosecutor in the manslaughter case, sent a letter advising the Bureau of Motor Vehicles of the conviction and suspension. Beauchesne included certified copies of key court records, including charging documents and the form used by the court to enter the guilty plea and sentence.
“Please find attached the necessary court documents for your department to move forward with the suspension of Mr. Ethan Rioux-Poulios’ license…following his motor vehicle homicide conviction,” Beauchesne wrote, citing the law. Beauchesne could not be reached and did not answer a call on his cell phone, which did not accept voicemail.
But the records he sent weren’t from the court — and under state law they must be from the court, not a prosecutor, Bellows said.
So, a Bureau of Motor Vehicle staff member called Beauchesne back, leaving a phone message on Aug. 31, 2021, at 10:33 a.m., according to a handwritten post-it note attached to the file, a copy of which was provided to the Press Herald by the Bellows office.
The BMV staff member then called the court, but no one from the justice system called back and provided the correct form, and no one followed up until Monday, three days after Rioux-Poulios was charged in the Friday’s lawsuit, Bellows said.
Part of the problem is how the BMV keeps records, Bellows said. Most of the work still involves paper records. The electronic license tracking system is approximately 17 years old. The BMV’s electronic registration system does not communicate directly with the court registration system, which is also outdated and should be replaced in the coming months.
It’s not the only suspension that hasn’t been put into effect, Bellows’ office said. BMV staff have identified at least two other cases in which a court-ordered license suspension did not go into effect because a member of the court failed to file the correct abstract of conviction form.
THE STATE MUST REVIEW OTHER CASES
She said staff would begin working to review old cases that may have been missed, and that the state “absolutely, desperately needs” to invest in modernizing data systems.
“Our technology does not allow for an audit, but given what is revealed today, we are looking into (cases),” she said.
In his first court appearance Monday in Friday’s accident, Rioux-Poulios was ordered to post $75,000 cash bond. He faces six new felony charges: two counts of aggravated assault, reckless driving with a dangerous weapon, evading an officer, driving to endanger and leaving the scene of an accident resulting in serious bodily injury or death. dead.
Assistant District Attorney Patricia Madore has not asked for any bail pending a hearing on probation violations still in effect since her manslaughter conviction, which Rioux-Pulios has denied.
“This defendant’s conduct was egregious,” Madore said. “He placed very many people – in addition to the parts that were actually injured – in serious danger of injury. And that sounds suspiciously like the factual predicate of the manslaughter conviction he’s currently on probation for.
In that 2019 incident, the car he was driving slammed into the back of a vehicle on Route 26 in west Paris as he fled an Oxford County Sheriff’s Office deputy, killing John Pikiell of Norway when the collision sent his vehicle into a tree. Rioux-Poulios fled the scene and was later found in a house in southern Paris.
Because the new charges are felonies, the case must go to a grand jury for possible impeachment before it can move forward, and Rioux-Poulios will later have the opportunity to plead and plead in favor. with a lower deposit amount.
Authorities said Kumiega, of Portland, was driving a Ford Escape on Friday when Rioux-Poulios crossed the center line and hit his vehicle head-on.
THE VICTIM REMAINS IN A CRITICAL CONDITION
Kumiega was first taken to Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway and then flown by LifeFlight of Maine to Maine Medical Center in Portland, where she remained in critical condition Monday, according to a hospital spokesperson. Kumiega was with another person, Ethan Wyman, who was also injured in the crash but was released after receiving treatment.
Kumiega suffered a ruptured aorta, brain hemorrhage and a broken neck, according to a police report. State registration records show she was recently certified as a nurse.
According to court records, the chase began in Oxford on Friday, where a sheriff’s deputy called state police for help as deputies chased Rioux-Poulios north on Highway 26. Rioux-Poulios had been seen by a Norwegian police officer driving the same truck two days earlier, and the state trooper who filed the accident report said he knew Rioux-Poulios because of the conditions of release under bail in place before he was charged with manslaughter in 2019.
After Rioux-Poulios allegedly hit Kumiega and Wyman’s vehicle, he fled on foot and stole another vehicle, a Ford Edge, according to the police affidavit. A sheriff’s deputy located this vehicle traveling at high speed on a snow-covered dirt road.
Rioux-Poulios dodged a set of spiked mats deployed by waiting deputies, but was tailed by another officer, ending the pursuit on Route 121. Police found a piece of folded aluminum foil with burn marks in Rioux-Poulios’ trouser pocket.
“Burnt residue on foil is commonly found in people who smoke opiates,” Private Jason Wing wrote in an affidavit for the arrest.
Sun Journal writer Christopher Williams contributed to this report.
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