LINDEN, NJ – The Linden police officer, who drove the wrong way on a Staten Island expressway in March killing a city police officer, civilian and critically injuring another police officer, was recently moved to a New Jersey rehabilitation center for traumatic brain injuries.
The exact condition of Pedro Abad, 27, is unknown and efforts to find out whether he will fully recuperate from critical head injuries has been difficult. The injuries were sustained when his Honda Civic careened headlong into an 18-wheel tractor trailer shortly before 5 a.m. on March 20.
The accident took the lives of Linden police officer Frank Viggiano, 28 and resident Joe Rodriguez, 28, and left fellow city officer Patric Kudlac, 23, critically injured. The four were reportedly drinking at a Staten Island strip club named Curves before the accident.
Although it took until late April for the results of Abad’s toxicology tests to come back, it was found he had a blood-alcohol level of .24, or three times the legal limit of .08 in New York.
Kudlac, a backseat passenger in the Honda Civic destroyed as a result of the horrific crash, was released May 14 from a Staten Island hospital. The following Monday Kudlac paid a short visit to the Linden police Department.
Although not ready to come back to work because he is still undergoing physical therapy, those who saw the police officer said while he appeared thinner “his spirits were up.” According to these sources, Kudlac did not discuss the accident, keeping the banter light with fellow officers during his brief visit.
According to the May 19th edition of the Staten Island Advance, though, Kudlac’s mother said her son is on the road to recovery.
“He’s fine. He’s doing his therapy,” said Mrs. Kudlacova, who declined further comment about her son’s injuries, according to the Staten Island newspaper.
Linden Police Capt. James Sarnicki told the Staten Island Advance that Kudlac had been moved home to continue his recovery and rehabilitation process, but was not ready to return to work.
Mayor Derek Armstead made a brief announcement on his city Facebook page regarding Kudlac leaving the hospital after close to two months, but did not mention Abad being moved to the traumatic brain injury unit.
Those who know Abad, including police department superiors, fellow officers and Armstead, have remained closed mouthed regarding possible charges the 6-year veteran police officer may face as a result of being intoxicated while driving the vehicle that killed two people and critically injured a fellow officer.
However, New York has some of the toughest laws in the country, especially when it comes to driving under the influence.
Although a first offense DUI is considered a misdemeanor offense under New York law, it does carry hefty penalties if a death is involved, including jail time.
New York history with intoxicated drivers in wrong way accidents involving death have resulted in murder convictions that held up on appeal.
Exactly what final charge is handed down in Abad’s case, New York authorities said, depends on various factors. With alcohol involved, especially when it involves a driver whose blood-alcohol was three times the legal limit, the charge could be murder in the second degree, which carries a life sentence, or murder by depraved indifference to human life. Abad could also be charged with aggravated vehicular homicide, which is one step down from a murder charge. This carries a maximum sentence of 8 to 25 years in prison. There is also the possibility that the Linden police officer could be charged with manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide.
New York authorities have not elaborated thus far on what charges could be levied against Abad, but according to information obtained by LocalSource from sources close to the case, it is expected the matter will be turned over to a grand jury in the next few weeks.
In late April, Staten Island authorities did indicate that Abad’s medical condition, and that of any potential witnesses, were prime factors in the timing of such a decision.
Possibly figuring heavily into any charges that may be levied against the 6-year veteran of the city police department is that Abad was involved in eight accidents prior to the West Shore Expressway crash, two of those involving DUI’s.
This information, though, did not surface until weeks after the accident, which lead to questions about the Linden Police Department’s knowledge of Abad’s DUI history and whether his superiors were aware of his driving accident record.
Although initially the mayor said there would be a full investigation into this issue by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, after preliminary review the office of the attorney general and Union County Prosecutor’s Office decided the matter should be investigated by another county prosecutor to avoid any possible conflict of interest or even the appearance of a conflict of interest.
As a result all information regarding Abad’s driving record and employment history was handed over to the Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey, who to date has not spoken publicly about the status of the ongoing investigation or when it might be completed.