Case postponed against O'Neill
Published 8:11 pm, Wednesday, November 10, 2010
The criminal case against a Bethel man accused of killing a Danbury police officer in a hit-and-run collision on Route 7 in June was postponed Nov. 4 until Dec. 14.
James O'Neill, 47, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of misconduct with a motor vehicle in the death of Officer Donald Hassiak, a New Milford resident, as the officer was riding his bicycle to work.
Mr. O'Neill stands accused of several other charges related to Officer Hassiak's death: evading responsibility, driving without insurance, and tampering with evidence.
In August, he pleaded innocent to all charges.
Although the misconduct with a motor vehicle charge generally has a five-year maximum penalty, Mr. Shepack has previously said in court he will seek the harsher sentence if Mr. O'Neill is convicted because of his long record of motor vehicle and other criminal offenses.
State law allows a judge to deliver a stricter sentence based on a person's criminal past.
At the time of the Officer Hassiak fatality, Mr. O'Neill was serving two years of probation for a 2007 conviction in state Superior Court for interfering with an officer and breach of peace.
Mr. O'Neill, who is now serving seven months in prison on a probation violation, also faces evading responsibility and other motor vehicle charges as a result of a Bethel collision in May. That case is also pending.
In the New Milford case, police arrested Mr. O'Neill after witnesses told investigators they recognized Mr. O'Neill's gray Buick Skylark as the vehicle that sped away from the collision with Officer Hassiak on Route 7 South.
Police were able to track the car and found damage consistent with the collision, including pieces of Officer Hassiak's clothing embedded in the broken windshield, according to arrest reports.
Officer Hassiak, 41, a 16-year Danbury police veteran, is survived by his wife, Kim; three children aged 2 to 8; his parents, Donald and Marilyn, who live in New Milford; and a brother, Peter.