Judge rejects further bail reduction for driver charged with killing honeymooning bride in crash
DOVER – Citing ongoing concerns, Superior Court Judge Kenneth Brown said he would not further reduce the bail of a Somersworth man who has remained in jail since a fatal accident along Route 4 in July.
On Nov. 14, a grand jury indicted Matthew Tsopas, 44, who previously lived at Blackwater Road in Somersworth, on charges of manslaughter, three counts of aggravated driving while intoxicated (DWI), one count of reckless conduct, three counts of simple assault, one count of attempted simple assault and four counts of conduct after an accident.
All of the charges are connected to a series of accidents, including one which killed Leah Preiss, a bride on her honeymoon, in Rollinsford July 20.
Following the crash, Tsopas was held in Strafford County Jail on $250,000 cash bail, which was reduced to $75,000 cash in August.
On Friday, Tsopas's attorney Harry Starbranch asked Brown to reduce bail to $25,000 cash or corporate surety in hopes he could possibly be released and monitored by Strafford County Community Corrections Program.
Starbranch argued the reduction was justified, as Tsopas has no criminal record, has the support of his family in the area, and is willing to adhere to all court orders to appear and seek treatment. He added that at the time of the accident, Tsopas was taking medication for anxiety and clinical depression.
"These are not things he took for recreation – this was something prescribed to him," Starbranch said, adding Tsopas is currently on different medications, and his previous prescription had psychotic episodes in some patients
"The new medication is clearly working," Starbranch said.
County Attorney Thomas Velardi asked Brown not to lower the bail. In fact, he said he was "begging" Brown to return bail to the original amount of $250,000.
"I found it appropriate at the time," Velardi said, adding the charges stem from Tsopas allegedly "being angry at a friend at a reception."
Velardi argued it continues to worry him how Tsopas showed a lack of control by allegedly mixing prescription drugs with alcohol.
"All this does is fan the flames of my concern," Velardi said.
While allegedly under the influence in July, Tsopas allegedly hit three people – two men and a woman - in the face with his hand and attempted to hit one man twice. He also allegedly threw a drink at the woman, according to the indictments.
Earlier in the day, Tsopas allegedly failed to report the fact he drove his vehicle into a Toyota Prius, a Toyota Corolla, a Chevy Blazer and a Chevy pickup in the parking lot outside the Rollinsford American Legion Hall, according to the indictments.
Later, Tsopas allegedly drove an Infiniti G35 head-on into a Kia Spectra driven by a honeymooning Minnesota couple along Route 4. Leah Fonda Preiss died as a result of her injuries at Wentworth Douglass Hospital in Dover, while her husband of nine days was eventually transported to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Mass. for head and wrist injuries.
Tsopas is scheduled to appear for an arraignment Tuesday at 9 a.m.
Manslaughter is a special felony which could result in up to 30 years in prison, while aggravated DWI and reckless conduct are both Class B felonies, and each count could yield 3½ to 7 years in prison. Simple assault, attempted simple assault and conduct after an accident are all Class A misdemeanors which could each result in a year in jail and a $2,000 fine, if convicted.