Comatose Woman Dies following 2007 Fatal Drunk Driving Accident Caused by Ex-New Jersey Cop

Having worked for many years as a municipal prosecutor I gained a healthy respect for the people serving in law enforcement. Now as a New Jersey DWI defense lawyer, I defend motorists accused of driving while intoxicated, arrested by some of those very same officers. While I admire the dedication of our police and their commitment to public safety, it gives me pause when I read about patrolmen and other individuals associated with law enforcement who flaunt the very laws they are sworn to uphold.

Being accused of drunken driving is nothing to be taken lightly, especially when fines and jail time are fairly heavy and the social stigma of being convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol can very often ruin reputations and business careers. The police, like other persons of authority, have a duty to be exemplary role models to the rest of society.

A recent news article reminds all of us that police officers do not always practice what they preach, and sometimes cause great harm when ignoring the law themselves. Based on reports, forty-year-old Ruth Zelaya died on March 24 as a result of “complications from a 2007 car crash that killed her 2-year-old son and left her in a comatose state until her recent passing.

According to court reports, the three-year-old accident was caused by Kevin Freibott, a Middletown resident and Jersey City police officer. The former cop plead guilty in December 2007 to vehicular homicide, assault by auto and drunk driving. The ex-patrolman, now 40 years old, is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence and is not expected to face additional charges as a result of Zelaya’s death due to the terms of his plea agreement.

The accident occurred in January 2007 on a stretch of the Pulaski Skyway in Jersey City following a Freibott’s reportedly five-and-a-half-hour “drinking marathon.” According to police records, the man’s blood-alcohol content (BAC) was 0.242 percent — better than three times the legal limit in New Jersey.

An FBI agent who saw Freibott’s Jeep Cherokee shortly before the crash told authorities that it “blew by him like he was standing still,” Hudson County Assistant Prosecutor Peter Stoma told Superior Court Judge Peter J. Vazquez.

News articles state that Freibott was fired from the Middletown police department in 2001 following a minor accident outside a tavern, however he was reinstated one year later. In 2005, he transferred over to the police department in Jersey City.

Other reports show that Freibott had a history of driving offenses dating back to 1986. According to New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission records, the man had six traffic violations between 1988 and 2001, including two for speeding and one other for driving under the influence of alcohol.


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