Officer Michael Califano
Officer Michael Califano
Photo credit: Nassau County Police Department
The Connecticut driver who fell asleep at the wheel and crashed his tow truck into a Nassau County police car stopped on the LIE, killing the officer, pleaded guilty Thursday to a lesser charge of reckless driving and will not go to jail.
Judge William O'Brien granted an order to dismiss a charge of criminally negligent homicide against John Kaley, 27, whose truck killed Officer Michael Califano in February 2011.
Kaley pleaded guilty to the reduced charge, reckless driving, a misdemeanor. His driver's license was revoked, but Kaley will not face jail time.
The charge of criminally negligent homicide, a felony, carries a top prison sentence of 4 years.
Kaley passed a hallway lined with police officers -- uniform and plain clothes -- and some Califano family members to enter the courtroom, which was similarly packed.
Several of those lining the hallway glared at him and others heckled him.
Inside the courtroom, prosecutor Maureen McCormick read a prepared statement from Califano's wife, Jackie, which referred to the couple's three sons -- Michael, 16, Christopher, 13, and Andrew, 8.
"There have been so many sleepless nights, and two years later there continues to be," McCormick read as Califano's widow draped an arm around the two youngest boys. "How am I going to raise three boys alone?"
McCormick ended by reading: "You cannot give Michael back to us. The only thing you can do is give us justice by holding Mr. Kaley accountable for my husband's death."
Michael Califano, 44, was in his cruiser with the lights flashing during a traffic stop on the Long Island Expressway when Kaley's truck struck the car near exit 39 in Old Westbury. Califano was writing a citation to the driver of a box truck for having insufficient lights.
Kaley's tow truck struck the cruiser from behind and rammed it underneath the stopped box truck, while the tow truck climbed the back of the police vehicle and onto its roof.
After rescue personnel removed the roof to free Califano, the officer was pronounced dead about an hour later at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow.
Kaley was arrested and charged with one count of criminally negligent homicide, three counts of assault and failure to move over for an emergency vehicle.
Kaley, of New Britain, Conn., was held without bail immediately after his arrest, but a judge then set bail at $90,000. Kaley's defense attorneys had said the crash was accidental, not a crime, and that he had no traces of alcohol in his system.
Investigators said Kaley had fallen asleep behind the wheel. He suffered minor injuries, as did his fiancee, who was riding with him.
Copyright 2013 - Newsday
McClatchy-Tribune News Service