Fate of Sweet Tomatoes Crash Driver Rests in Jury’s Hands

"It haunts me every day," Brad Casler, the man accused of causing the crash, testified Tuesday

Closing arguments in the Sweet Tomatoes trial involving a fatal car crash in Newton now rests in the jury's hands.

The jury began deliberating after lunch on Thursday after being given instructions. Shortly after, they were dismissed for the day and will return Friday morning.

Brad Casler, 56, is charged with motor vehicle homicide for the March 2016 crash at the Newton Sweet Tomatoes restaurant on Chestnut Street. The crash killed 32-year-old Gregory Morin of Newton and 57-year-old Eleanor Miele of Watertown.

Casler cried in court Thursday morning as his attorney delivered his closing argument.

"His cognitive deficiencies caused him to lose control of that vehicle," said Casler's attorney Tom Giblin.

The prosecution said the fact that Casler was using a hands-free phone at the time of the crash adds another layer of distraction for someone who was already suffering from cognitive defects.

"Gregory Morin, Eleanor Miele all suffered the consequences of the defendants choice to drive a car," argued Assistant District Attorney Chris Tarrant.

Casler testified Tuesday about how multiple sclerosis regularly affects him with dizziness, tingling, cognitive issues and "brain fog." He was diagnosed in 1996 and calls the disease "unpredictable."

"Multiple sclerosis didn’t cause this crash. It was Brad Casler," a prosecutor said Thursday during closing arguments, arguing there was no evidence that he suffered a sudden medical emergency.

Giblin said with no evidence Casler shouldn't have been driving, there's no way he can be found negligent. He told the jury it was the result of his disability and that's the only explanation for the crash that they say was an accident — not a crime.

"This action was unavoidable he had no way of knowing," said Giblin. "The only reason why it happened was put forth by Mr. Casler and that was the only question that needed to be answered to arrive at your verdict here."

Dr. Ellen Lahti with The Elliot Lewis Center for Multiple Sclerosis Care in Wellesley was the last witness to take the stand on Wednesday.

Although she never treated Casler, the multiple sclerosis expert affirmed that Casler's driving may have been impaired by the disease in 2016 at the time of the deadly crash.

On Tuesday, Casler recounted the day of the crash, starting with his job as a real estate broker, looking at a property for a client in the Newton Upper Falls area, which required him to drive.

He said he was headed to Trader Joe's in Newton while talking to a friend on his cellphone via the hands-free Bluetooth feature. Suddenly, he felt strange and told his friend he needed to hang up.

"I felt weird, my body felt strange to me, which had not happened before. I didn't know what was going on, and I said to him, 'I have to get off the phone.' The car was speeding up, and I just didn't know what was happening. I just couldn't control it at the time."

Casler said he doesn't remember the accident at all, only waking up later at the hospital.

"It haunts me every day," he said. "I don't know what happened. I just don't remember. I think about it all day long. I think about it at night. I wake up and shake at night. I don't know what happened."

Casler said he had his driver's license revoked after the accident, and no longer drives or wants to drive.

"I know that I'll never drive again, and I wholeheartedly accept that," he said.

Earlier in the trial, Meriam Saim, an EMT who treated Casler, testified that he told her that he didn't believe that his multiple sclerosis played a role in the crash, a claim his attorney has made in court.

"I asked if he thought that the multiple sclerosis may have played a role in the accident if he believed that he had a flare of sorts," said Saim. "He said, 'No.'"

Saim also said that Casler told her that he tried to stop, but couldn't.

An accident reconstruction expert who examined Casler's vehicle also testified, saying he didn't find any issues with the SUV.

The jury also got a look at photos showing Casler's damaged vehicle and pizza ovens that were crushed in the crash.

The jury will decide whether the crash was an accident or whether Casler should be held criminally responsible.

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