NEW YORK (AP) — A New Jersey police officer pleaded not guilty Monday to charges he was drunk behind the wheel in a wrong-way crash that killed two passengers, including a fellow police officer, and critically injured a third.
Linden police Officer Pedro Abad surrendered to police and was arrested before he appeared in state court on Staten Island, where the wreck occurred on the West Shore Expressway after the men had left a strip club in March.
Abad was charged in a 27-count indictment with vehicular manslaughter, aggravated vehicular homicide, aggravated vehicular assault and other crimes. If convicted on the top count, aggravated vehicular homicide, he faces up to 8 1/3 and 25 years in prison.
Prosecutors say Abad crashed head-on into a tractor-trailer after leaving the Staten Island strip club. Tests later showed the officer's blood alcohol content was 0.18; 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 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."
A lawyer for Abad didn't immediately return a call seeking comment. He has said his client is still recovering from serious leg injuries.
Abad, 27, had two drunken-driving arrests in the last four years, including one for an accident in which he plowed through the wall of a convenience store, records show.
He was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence in Roselle, New Jersey, in January 2011 after his car "put a hole completely through the building" housing a supermarket, a police report said. Abad was issued a summons for driving under the influence and reckless driving, but apparently the case didn't conclude in any citations or violations, the state Motor Vehicle Commission said.
Thirteen months later, Abad was charged with DUI in Rahway, New Jersey. A police dashboard camera video showed him weaving, wobbling and slurring his words as he attempted to complete a field sobriety test.
Associated Press writer Tom Hays contributed to this report.