Driver Charged in NJ Cop's Death Pleads Guilty

Morris County prosecutors say 30-year-old Michael Cassella of Howell faces a 20-year prison term

Saturday, Jan 5, 2013  |  Updated 12:23 PM EDT
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Driver Charged in NJ Cop's Death Pleads Guilty

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A driver who was under the influence of drugs when he caused a crash that killed a northern New Jersey police officer has pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter.
 
Morris County prosecutors say 30-year-old Michael Cassella of Howell faces a 20-year prison term when he's sentenced March 1. He also will have to serve 85 percent of his term before becoming eligible for parole.

  As part of his plea deal, prosecutors dropped a vehicular homicide charge.
 
Cassella admitted to the facts of the case, even though his attorney, Donald Lomurro, said his client ``has no independent knowledge of the events that occurred that day.'' Lomurro said Cassella agreed to accept the evidence discovered by the prosecutors and investigators hired by the defense team.
 
Cassella's $500,000 bail was revoked after he entered his plea Friday, and he was taken into custody.
 
The charges against Cassella stem from an October 2011 crash on Route 80 in Roxbury that killed Mount Arlington officer Joseph Wargo.
 
Cassella was under the influence of heroin and other drugs when he lost control of his vehicle. He then crossed the median and crashed into Wargo's marked police cruiser.
 
The 38-year-old married officer was on routine patrol at the time. He had served in law enforcement for 18 years and was a member of the Mount Arlington force for more than 10 years.

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