NEW YORK (AP) — A former New Jersey police officer was convicted Thursday in a wrong-way crash that killed a fellow officer and another man in what prosecutors said was the result of extreme intoxication.
Pedro Abad, 29, was found guilty of aggravated vehicular homicide, manslaughter, reckless endangerment and other crimes following a two-week trial on Staten Island in New York.
"Today's top-count conviction ensures that Mr. Abad will spend many years behind bars and that he is held accountable for the devastation he has caused," District Attorney Michael McMahon said in a statement.
McMahon said the former Linden officer was "heavily intoxicated" when he made the choice to get behind the wheel.
Prosecutors say Abad was driving the wrong way on the West Shore Expressway when he crashed head-on into a tractor-trailer after leaving a Staten Island strip club. Tests later showed the officer's blood alcohol content was 0.24; the legal limit in New York is 0.08.
Frank Viggiano, a second off-duty Linden police officer, and Joseph Rodriguez — both 28 — died in the crash. A third Linden officer, Patrik Kudlac, was critically injured.
Hours before the crash, Abad had posted a photo on his Instagram page of three shot glasses filled with what he identified as "Jack Daniels Fire on the house."
Abad had two drunken-driving arrests before the fatal crash: one from a 2011 accident in Roselle, New Jersey, after he allegedly drove through the wall of a convenience store; the other in 2013 after he struck a parked car in Rahway, New Jersey. The 2011 charge was later dismissed.
During the trial, defense lawyer Mario Gallucci called the crash a tragedy and a horrific accident "not caused by intoxication." He said authorities did not properly obtain a blood sample and could not prove Abad was drunk.
"Pedro knew going into this was going to be a very difficult case," defense lawyer Mario Gallucci told reporters after the verdict. "He wanted to roll the dice and he did."
Gallucci admitted that Abad had no recollection of what happened. He said Abad said to him: "I'm at peace. Now I know."
Abad was remanded to jail until his sentencing June 8.