LINDEN, NJ — With questions continuing to surface about whether Linden Police Officer Pedro Abad’s superior officers knew he had been arrested for two DUI’s since 2011, evidence has been uncovered that would confirm they would have a motor vehicle agency update of every officer’s driving record for insurance purposes.
According to information obtained by LocalSource, Linden is a member of the Garden State Municipal Joint Insurance Fund, a property and casualty fund. It was formed in 2002 according to New Jersey state statutes to serve 35 New Jersey municipalities covering 12 counties.
The GSMJIF was formed in response to a lack of affordable commercial insurance for municipalities. The primary objective of this group is to provide members with a “secure, long-term and cost effective risk management program that will help maintain municipal budget stability year after year.”
This group is overseen by highly experienced managers who work closely with outside service providers and members to achieve “best-in-class results.” While there are more than 100 employees headquartered in Woodbridge who draw upon the expertise of partners throughout the country and abroad to meet the needs of its clients at the GSMJIF, each town has a representative that handles inquiries, obtains required documents, and attends GSMJIF meetings. Linden, as a member of the GSMJIF, is represented by Health Officer Nancy Koblis.
Police chiefs from Union County municipalities in the Joint Insurance Fund pointed out that it would be nearly impossible for Linden not to know about Abad’s driving record because each municipality in the insurance group has to provide annual proof of a police officer’s driving record, which substantiates that they are not on the suspended list. This information also shows a police officer’s driving record for the year.
It is unlikely, said one police chief who preferred their name not be used, that superior officers would not be made aware that a police officer’s motor vehicle record showed they had been convicted of a DUI and had a suspended license. Another police chief said the only way any police department would know if an officer was having alcohol problems would be to “run his license.”
“It’s not too hard for us to find out,” he said, adding that it takes a matter of minutes.
While it is not a felony in New Jersey to be convicted of a DUI, as it is in New York, it is considered a driving infraction. Abad’s record since 2005 showed he had eight accidents and two arrests for DUI’s, one in 2011 and another in 2013. In New Jersey you can still serve as a police officer even with a DUI conviction on your record.
Meanwhile, Monday the Union County Prosecutor’s Office said the investigation into Abad’s driving and employment record will be handed by a prosecutor’s office outside the county “to avoid any possible conflict of interest or even the appearance of a conflict of interest.”
The decision was made, a prosecutor’s office spokesperson said in a statement, after a preliminary review with the New Jersey Attorney General. The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office will be looking into Abad’s driving and employment record.
Abad, 27, a six-year veteran of the Linden Police Department, was driving the vehicle involved in the wrong-way crash shortly before 5 a.m. on March 20 on the Staten Island Expressway. City police officer Frank Viggiano, 28, and Linden resident Joseph Rodriguez, 28, were killed in the accident that destroyed the Honda Civic when it crashed headlong into an 18-wheeler, leaving Abad and fellow Linden police officer Patrik Kudlac in critical but stable condition.
According to New York authorities, the four men were heading home to Linden from a strip club in Staten Island when Abad drove the wrong way down a service road leading to the southbound expressway. Investigators obtained a warrant to test Abad’s blood alcohol level but it is unknown whether that test has been taken or when the results might be back.
Earlier in the evening, while at least three of the four men were gathered at Roselle bar, Abad posted a picture of three shots of whiskey on Instagram. Later, they picked up their fourth companion and make their way to Curves Gentleman’s Club in Staten Island.
Questions immediately surfaced after the accident about whether Abad was drunk when the accident occurred and if he had been in any prior accidents. Linden Police Capt. James Sarnicki made it very clear to the media that his department might not know if an officer had been involved in prior accidents.
“We would not necessarily be notified if an officer had an off-duty accident unless there was a charge filed against him. If that was the case, the officer would be required to notify our department and an internal investigation of that incident would take place,” said Sarnicki.
Subsequently it was discovered that Abad not only was involved in a total of eight accidents since 2005, but also was arrested on two DUI’s, one in 2011 when he crashed into a small supermarket in Roselle and a second in 2013 when he crashed into a parked car in Rahway.
The 2011 DUI was eventually dismissed. Earlier this week the Star-Ledger was reporting that the cause of dismissal was due to the State Police and the Borough of Roselle failing to turn over evidence to the defense attorney representing Abad.
According to the Ledger, the Roselle municipal prosecutor argued against dismissal, but the judge ultimately dismissed the case, citing the evidence not being turned over.
Abad’s attorney had been attempting to refute the blood alcohol level testing, saying it was improperly obtained without a warrant, but multiple news outlets are reporting that the “improper” test results show a blood alcohol level of more than twice the legal driving limit.
In 2013, following a second DUI charge, a judge in Rahway suspended Abad’s license for seven months, requiring after his license was restored that the police officer have an ignition interlocking device installed for 180 days that prevented the vehicle from starting unless he was sober.
After this information surfaced in the press, Linden Officials said they would not be making any statements until after New York Police finished their investigation of the fatal accident.
Meanwhile, information obtained by LocalSource from the New Jersey Department of Motor Vehicles showed the police officer was involved in a series of accidents since 2005, including one while he was driving a police cruiser.
Records showed he had accidents in Montclair in September 2005; one in Linden in which he crashed into the back of a vehicle stopped at a red light; another in Linden in December 2008; one in Roselle in August 2009; a second in Roselle in January 2011, the accident where he was accused of being under the influence after crashing into the supermarket; another in Linden in March 2012; one in February 2013 in Rahway when he hit the parked car and was arrested on a DUI, and June 2013 when he hit a guardrail on the Parkway in Holmdel shortly after midnight.