The Director of MASS MoCA Faces Vehicular Homicide Charges Following a Traffic Accident in Massachusetts

The deadly crash took place last July.

Joseph Thompson. Photo by Eser Atilla-Gonzalez courtesy of MASS MoCA.
Joseph Thompson. Photo by Eser Atilla-Gonzalez courtesy of MASS MoCA.

Joseph Thompson, the founding director of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, will be charged with misdemeanor homicide following a traffic collision last summer that left a motorcyclist dead.

Thompson was driving north on Church Street in North Adams, Massachusetts, last July when he struck and killed 49-year-old Steven Fortier, who was riding a motorcycle in the opposite director.

Although no charges were initially filed, a reconstruction report by the Massachusetts state police led prosecutors to pursue their case in the courts nearly a year later. “Unfortunately, some of these accidents which are serious in nature take longer to conclude because of the number of agencies that are involved,” North Adams police chief Jason Wood told the Berkshire Eagle, which broke the story.

Thompson’s lawyer, Timothy Shugrue, denied all the charges. “The police confirmed [Thompson] had used no alcohol, was not on his cellphone,” he said. “But they have elected to go forward with the charges anyway.”

Aerial view of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art from drone. Photo courtesy of MASS MoCA.

Aerial view of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art from drone. Photo courtesy of MASS MoCA.

“He took an evasive maneuver so [the motorcycle] would not hit him and his passenger head on,” Shugrue told MASS Live, noting elsewhere that the motorclycist hit the passenger side of Thompson’s car. Jodi Joseph, the museum’s communications director, was a passenger in Thompson’s car at the time of the crash, according to ARTnews.

A report filed with the North Adams Licensing Commission and cited by the Berkshire Eagle found that the motorcyclist was seen “falling down” leaving a local bar prior to the crash. The bar was later sanctioned by the city for overserving alcohol.

“The MASS MoCA board and staff stand with director Joe Thompson while he resolves this deeply unfortunate personal matter,” said Timur Galen, the chair of MASS MoCA’s board of trustees, in a statement provided to artnet News.

Thompson’s arraignment in Northern Berkshire District Court is scheduled to take place on June 19. The complaint against the director will remain sealed until the court date.

“I’m very confident that he’s innocent and I’m very confident it’s going to be found that way,” Shugrue added.


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