A Woodbridge, NJ, man was sentenced to eight years in prison recently for a fatal drunk driving accident that killed a Perth Amboy patrolman. Sean McGuirk, 25, received his sentence in a New Brunswick courtroom on September 17 for the August 2008 crash that killed 31-year-old Thomas Raji and injured two other people. Although there are many kinds of drunk driving charges, as a New Jersey DWI defense lawyer I will say that the most serious cases involve injury accidents and fatal wrecks.
McGuirk’s sentence also shows what can happen when a motorist drives drunk and kills a law enforcement officer. This case was tragic and can only serve as a reminder that drinking heavily and operating a motor vehicle are not compatible.
On August 21, 2008, McGuirk was admittedly drunk when he left the Big Shots Bar in Woodbidge and got into his car. According to court records, he had been drinking for four hours starting around 11pm. He said he had “five or six drinks” before leaving for home at about 3:30am. He had testified that he also had alcohol in his car.
Driving south on Green Street, McGuirk ignored the red traffic signals of both the northbound and southbound crossings at the Route 1 intersection, where he broadsided a Perth Amboy police cruiser carrying Raji, another officer and a prisoner being transported to the Middlesex County Jail.
Traveling 45 to 50 miles an hour in a 25-mph zone, McGuirk’s vehicle impacted the driver’s side of the cruiser. The force of the crash critically injured Raji, seriously injured the 44-year-old Mercurio and caused lesser injuries to the prisoner in the back seat.
Raji was airlifted to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, where he was pronounced dead. The officer, who took much of the impact, suffered brain hemorrhaging, broken arms and ribs and multiple internal injuries.
Mercurio had to leave the police force due to injuries received that day. He reportedly still suffers from a brain injury and double vision, as well as chronic pain from having so many broken bones — most of the bones in his face were broken and he needed surgery to rebuild his eye sockets.
Following the crash, McGuirk’s blood-alcohol content (BAC) was measured at 0.13 percent, considerably higher than the legal limit of 0.08 percent. He was charged with vehicular manslaughter and two counts of assault by auto and driving while intoxicated. The state agreed to recommend the dismissal of aggravated manslaughter as well as two counts of aggravated assault. The state also agreed to recommend a sentence of eight years.
8 years for man who killed cop in crash, ABCLocal.com, September 17, 2009
Death driver hears of lives he wrecked, NJ.com, September 18, 2009