Linden officer in wrong way crash to be charged

Officer Pedro Abad
Officer Pedro Abad

LINDEN, NJ — The Linden off-duty police officer who was allegedly driving while intoxicated when he drove the wrong way on the highway and killed two of the passengers in his car has been indicted on manslaughter charges, The Star-Ledger is reporting.

Officer Pedro Abad, who officials have said had a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit, was driving his car in the early morning hours of March 20 when he slammed head first into a tractor trailer after driving the wrong way on the West Shore Expressway in Staten Island.

Both Abad and fellow officer Patric Kudlac were critically injured in the accident, and Linden Police Officer Frank Viggiano, 28, and Joseph Rodriguez, 28, both died in the accident.

The Star-Ledger is also reporting that no arrest warrant has been issued as of yet, but that a grand jury has indicted Abad on the manslaughter charges. The charges come after many details about Abad and his driving record surfaced in the six months since the accident.

Abad has been charged with a DUI twice previously, one in 2011 and another in 2013, although one of the charges was dismissed. 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. In New Jersey you can still serve as a police officer even with a DUI conviction on your record. In addition, Abad’s record since 2005 also shows that he has been involved in eight accidents.

The Union County Prosecutor’s Office said months ago that an investigation into Abad’s driving and employment record would be handled 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 Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office has reportedly been looking into Abad’s driving and employment record.

At issue are whether or not proper steps were taken by the Linden Police Department following Abad’s DUI, including the suspension of his license in 2013, and how one of his DUI charges was dismissed. Meanwhile, Kudlac, the passenger in the vehicle who survived with critical injuries, in July filed a tort claim, or notice of intent to sue the city of Linden.

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.