NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A former New Jersey police officer has been found guilty in a wrong-way crash on Staten Island that killed two fellow officers.
The jury reached its verdict after just three hour of deliberations.
As CBS2’s Erin Logan reports, family and friends of the victims let out a sigh of relief. After 26 long months, they walked out of court hearing the decision they’ve been waiting for.
“He took my son’s life that morning, and he took Mr. and Mrs. Viggiano’s son’s life,” said Angelo Rodriguez, the father of one of the victims. “We will never get them back. He destroyed two young boys.”
Pedro Abad arrived at court Thursday reiterating that he doesn’t remember much of anything from that deadly crash in March of 2015.
Abad, a former Linden officer, was accused of driving drunk in a wrong-way crash that killed two fellow officers. A third officer was seriously injured, as well as Abad, who spent months in the hospital.
“I don’t even intentionally fully know that this is my fault,” Abad said. “I swear on my life I don’t remember anything at all, I don’t remember having dinner with them, I don’t even remember having that car.”
Abad’s attorney said the guilty verdict was not surprising.
“The man that enters into the arena knowing that his fate is going to be that way is a tough man. Pedro knew going into this this was going to be a very difficult case,” Mario Gallucci said. “I explained to him this is going to be a devil case. He wanted to roll the dice and he did.”
Following the verdict, Linden Police Chief Jonathan Parham released a statement, saying the victims were taken too soon.
“While these proceedings may be behind us, there is no verdict that can take away the emptiness and pain we feel,” he said. “We continue to pray for the Viggiano and Rodriguez families, and hope that all of those effected by this tragedy can find some closure in this decision as they continue to cope with this loss.”
“I hope this brings closure to a very sad chapter in our city’s history,” Linden Mayor Derek Armstead added.
Authorities said the four men had just left a strip club in Staten Island, one that Abad says he went to often.
“Do you regret having that much to drink, not remembering the whole night?” CBS2’s Erin Logan asked Abad.
“I regret many things, see I don’t know, it’s hard for me to answer that question only because I don’t remember being there,” Abad said.
For that reason, Abad said he did not testify in court.
This is now Abad’s third DUI. He called this one “disgusting,” because he put other people’s lives at risk, Logan reported. When asked about the other two, he said he was drinking and driving alone.
When asked what he would say to the families of the two other victims whose lives were cut short he said it would be irrelevant.
“I’m sorry for all this even happening, this should never have happened,” Abad said. “If and when I do get sent away I’m OK with that. I feel like God wants me to do something.”
The judge addressed the jury early Thursday afternoon before they decided whether Abad will spend up to 25 years behind bars.
Abad was upbeat as he came to court. When asked why he’s smiling under these circumstances he said it’s because he is alive, Logan reported.
Abad told CBS2 if he goes to jail, he wants to be a pastor and help his fellow inmates.
He is due back in court for sentencing on June 8.