The untraceable license plate Thomas Porro enjoyed as an undercover federal agent might have been his passport out of a grisly hit-and-run crash with a biker last year had it not been for a crackerjack South Boston cop’s instinct to check 72AT24 for parking tickets, prosecutors allege.
There were three, Boston police Detective John McCarthy learned, one of which Porro, 35, a local export enforcer for the U.S. Department of Commerce driving a government-issued Nissan Maxima, decided to dispute.
“It took two days for Boston police to actually get this information. That’s how hidden it was,” assistant Suffolk District Attorney John Powers said yesterday on the opening day of Porro’s trial on charges of aggravated assault and leaving the scene of an accident.
Porro is accused of running motorcyclist Frank Merlonghi off Summer Street after flashing him his sidearm on March 29, 2006, while they verbally sparred for a mile through South Boston. Merlonghi, 46, an Amtrak lineman, was hospitalized for two months, during part of which he was in a medically induced coma for a shattered right arm, broken ribs and a calf sheared down to bone.
“This is a case of road rage with its worst possible consequences,” Powers solemnly told jurors.
Defense attorney Charles Rankin said Porro had no idea he hit Merlonghi’s Harley-Davidson, believing instead that when a rear window in his car shattered, he’d been shot at.
But Bart Loftus, 46, the lifelong pal with whom Merlonghi took a “spur of the moment” ride that unseasonably warm day, recalled yesterday how after Porro had initially sped off, Merlonghi pulled up beside his Harley and said, “Bart, the guy’s got a gun.”
“I said, ‘What are you doing, dummy? Stay back here with me,’ ” Loftus testified. Instead, Merlonghi followed Porro.
Porro allegedly took off and brought the Maxima to a New Hampshire garage for repair.
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