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Richmond man, 20, arraigned on DUI charge in death of friend

WAKEFIELD — A 20-year-old Richmond man stood before an outwardly frustrated and angered judge in 4th Division District Court Monday on charges that he was drunk when his pickup truck overturned, killing a friend who was pinned beneath the vehicle. It wasn’t his first driving under the influence charge and he has not even reached the legal age for consumption of alcohol.

The man, Zachary M. Thole, of 8 Twilight Trail, faces a felony charge of DUI-death resulting. He appeared at his arraignment before Judge Mary McCaffrey, dressed neatly in khakis, a jacket and tie. He stood looking straight ahead as Detective Drew Bishop of the Richmond police, standing next to him, read details of the case. As graphic details of the death of Nicholas Gershkoff, 20, of 69 Mesa Drive, North Kingstown, were being read, members of Thole’s family wept.

Rowan Alexander, 20, one of those with Thole in court on Monday, had also been a passenger in the truck. Alexander was treated at South County Hospital for minor injuries she suffered in the crash. Alexander and Thole came out of the courthouse holding hands following the arraignment.

The rollover accident occurred near 112 Hillsdale Road at 7:39 p.m. on Friday. Bishop said that when police arrived on the scene they found the overturned truck with Gershkoff’s torso crushed beneath the vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Bishop said a number of empty beer cans were strewn throughout the truck.

Thole voluntarily submitted to blood tests at South County Hospital to determine whether he was intoxicated, the detective said, and the results of those tests are pending notification from the state Department of Health. Because Thole is under 21, the blood alcohol concentration of intoxication is set at .02 percent.

The young man has made no secret of his drinking, as evident from the public portion of his Facebook page, which displays a photo of him holding a beer, and a comment from a friend: “...of course you have a beer in your hand. Wouldn’t be a photo of you without one.”

During the hearing, McCaffrey noted that Thole had pleaded no-contest to a Rhode Island State Police charge of DUI, blood alcohol content unknown, in 2012, at which time he was given the minimum sanctions, including losing his license for three months. In 2011, he was charged with DUI and obstructing a police officer by the North Kingstown police. The DUI charges were dismissed and the obstructing charge was filed for one year. McCaffrey also mentioned sealed files that were included in his records.

“If this were a capital offense, I could hold you without bail,” the judge said. Since that was noted allowed in this case, McCaffrey said she was imposing strict sanctions on Thole’s release; he continues to be free on $100,000 bail with surety, after furnishing the required $10,000.

Under the court’s restrictions, Thole was ordered to spend any time that he is not working at home. He was ordered to be home by 8 p.m. and stay home until 6 a.m., the time he leaves for work. McCaffrey said that officials from pretrial services would oversee Thole’s compliance at his expense.

He was told to attend alcohol counseling classes, submit to periodic tests to ensure that he does not consume alcohol, and report by phone daily to the court officials. She also suggested that if it is recommended that he explore inpatient residential treatment for an alcohol problem, that he be required to do so.

Thole and his family pushed past TV crews and reporters as they tried to ask questions when the group of about seven people left the courthouse following the arraignment.

Thole’s next court date is Dec. 12.

A conviction on the DUI offense calls for a minimum sentence of five years in prison, fines, and a five-year license revocation.

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