O'Neill pleads guilty in death of Danbury policeman
Updated 5:17 pm, Thursday, September 8, 2011
halfway onto the paved shoulder where Officer Hassiak, the married father of three children and a resident of New Milford, was riding when the accident occurred just before 10:30 p.m.
Police said Mr. O'Neill was highly intoxicated when officers found him four hours later, sleeping in a broken-down van at a construction site in Bethel. There were also indications Mr. O'Neill had been drinking prior to the crash.
His gray Buick Skylark had clearly been involved in a serious accident. Police conclusively established it was the vehicle that struck Officer Hassiak, Mr. Shepack said.
People who knew the 48-year-old carpenter told police that Mr. O'Neill has had a long history of alcohol and drug abuse, according to court documents previously made public, and his ex-wife said he was proud of his ability "to drink and party for days at a time."
Investigators couldn't prove Mr. O'Neill was drunk when the accident happened, so he was only charged with misconduct with a motor vehicle, tampering with evidence and evading responsibility.
Those charges normally carry maximum penalties of up to five years in prison each, but because Mr. O'Neill was free on bond as the result of a previous arrest in Danbury, Mr. Shepack was able to seek an enhanced penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment on each of the offenses.
The prosecutor recommended a total sentence of 30 years behind bars, suspended after Mr. O'Neill serves 14 years, plus five years of probation.
Mr. O'Neill still faces charges for another hit-and-run accident in Bethel a week before Officer Hassiak was killed. Under Thursday's plea agreement, the sentence for the Bethel crash is to run concurrently with the sentence ordered on Thursday.
As part of the conditions of probation, Mr. Shepack said Mr. O'Neill should be required to undergo drug and alcohol treatment after release from prison and be barred from driving during probation.
Officer Hassiak's wife, mother, father, brother and sister-in-law were in the courtroom Sept. 1 but declined to comment.