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Home » News » Crime

March 04. 2014 2:05PM

UPDATED: Sentencing hearing for former Manchester detective delayed


STEPHEN COCO 

MANCHESTER— It will be another two weeks before a judge decides on a plea bargain involving former Manchester police detective Stephen Coco, after the mother of a hit-and-run victim fell ill and could not make it to a court hearing on Tuesday.
 
Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Gillian Abramson delayed a hearing to March 26, when Coco is expected to plead guilty to two felony counts of conduct-after-an accident and be sentenced to 12 months in the Valley Street jail.
 
One of two victims appeared in court with his father, John Hickman. But Hickman said his wife became sick Sunday and was taken to the hospital. She wanted to be at the hearing, he said.
 
About 30 family and supporters of Coco attended the hearing, but Coco’s lawyer said his client understood and had no objections to rescheduling.
 
Coco was off-duty a year ago when he struck the two while driving an unmarked police SUV. Within days, he was fired.


Previous story follows:



MANCHESTER — Stephen Coco, the Manchester police detective sergeant who lost his job after an alleged hit-and-run accident involving two Bedford teenagers, is expected to appear in court today and plead guilty.

But if Coco's plea bargain goes forward as spelled out in court papers, the 41-year-old Bedford resident won't admit that he knew he hit the two teenagers and left the scene. He will only admit that he should have known that he hit them.

"I think he's still going to say he had no idea of hitting the boys, so he didn't leave the scene of the accident," said Roy Drukker, whose son was knocked unconscious and suffered bleeding in the brain from the accident.
"Your car's all dented, a boy goes over the top; you mean you're still going to pretend you have no idea you hit someone?" he said.

Court workers said that a hearing is scheduled for this afternoon, when a plea bargain is expected to be heard by a judge in Hillsborough County Superior Court-North.

The plea bargain calls for Coco to serve a 12-month sentence at the Hillsborough County House of Correction as well as probation, a prohibition against drinking alcohol, and a second prison sentence, which would be suspended.

The agreement must be accepted by a judge, who could throw it out, which would likely mean a trial. Conduct after an accident is a Class B felony. It carries a maximum prison sentence of 3 1/2 to seven years, although judges are allowed to tailor sentences based on individual circumstances.

Drukker said he's fine with a guilty plea and having a judge issue a sentence, as long as the judge knows the facts of the case.

A 17-year member of the Manchester Police Department, Coco was driving an undercover SUV last March 22 when he struck two Bedford teenagers walking on Harrod Lane, a quiet residential street in Bedford.

Later, Coco told Bedford police he had been home that night.

The teenagers were hospitalized. Dean Drukker suffered bleeding on the brain. The accident caused emotional trauma to Noah Hickman, who believed his friend was dying, Drukker said.

Within days of the accident, Police Chief David Mara fired Coco. In November, Judge Gillian Abramson rejected a deal that called for Coco to plead guilty to misdemeanor charges of vehicular assault in exchange for a six-month sentence at the Valley Street jail.

A Hillsborough County grand jury subsequently indicted Coco on the felonies. The case is being prosecuted by Marc Hathaway, the Sullivan County Attorney who was called in to avoid any appearance of favoritism with the Hillsborough County Attorney's Office. Coco's attorney is Mark Howard, a former federal prosecutor.

mhayward@unionleader.com


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