Songwriter Don McLean wasn’t driving a Chevy, but Rockland judge rules he was speeding

Don McLean in concert in Westport, Conn., in 2009.
Alan Howard | Wikimedia Commons
Don McLean in concert in Westport, Conn., in 2009.
Posted Jan. 24, 2013, at 1:26 p.m.
Don McLean (right) went to pay his $400 speeding ticket Thursday after his trial in Rockland District Court. His attorney Paul Gibbons (left) represented him at the hearing.
Don McLean (right) went to pay his $400 speeding ticket Thursday after his trial in Rockland District Court. His attorney Paul Gibbons (left) represented him at the hearing.

ROCKLAND, Maine — Don McLean was not driving a “Chevy to the levee,” but a judge ruled Thursday morning that he was driving by a school too quickly.

Judge Patricia Worth ruled that the 67-year-old Camden songwriter, best known for his iconic hit “American Pie,” was speeding in a school zone last September in Rockport. She imposed a fine of $400, which he immediately paid after leaving the courtroom.

McLean had contested the ticket issued him on Sept. 7 by Rockport Police Officer Craig Cooley on Route 90 by Camden Hills Regional High School. The Camden man hired attorney Paul Gibbons to represent him at a trial that took about 40 minutes in Rockland District Court.

The officer told the judge that he was parked alongside Route 90 and the flashing yellow lights were on when he spotted McLean’s Chrysler traveling at 43 miles per hour.

The lights are made to flash and reduce the speed limit to 15 miles per hour in the school zone when students are traveling to and from school. Otherwise, the speed limit on that stretch of road is 45 miles per hour.

Cooley said it was a clear day and he specifically recalls the lights were flashing. He said he turned his cruiser around and pulled McLean over at 7:41 a.m. and issued the ticket at 7:43 a.m.

McLean, however, said that the lights were not flashing when he was pulled over.

“I was amazed,” McLean said about being pulled over by the officer.

He said he is familiar with the stretch of road and always drives slow in a school zone, but that this time there were no flashing lights.

A witness called by the defense was Keith Rose, director of operations and maintenance of the Five-Town Community School District. Rose testified that the lights begin flashing by the high school at 7:10 a.m. and stop at 7:40 a.m.

Gibbons said Cooley’s recollection was clearly wrong. The officer said weather conditions were clear and McLean said they were foggy. Gibbons noted his client was stopped after the school zone time ended.

Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Baroody said that the officer’s testimony was sufficient to prove the case.

Upon the judge’s ruling, Gibbons asked for a lesser fine than the $516 fine that had been assessed, noting the circumstances of the case. Judge Worth agreed and imposed the $400 fine.

District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau said only a small fraction of people issued tickets ask for trials and then only a few follow through with the trials.

He said it is even more rare when a driver hires an attorney.

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