MANCHESTER — Fired Manchester police detective Stephen Coco was sentenced to a year in jail Wednesday after he pleaded guilty to driving off in his undercover police vehicle after hitting two teenage pedestrians on a Bedford residential street a year ago.
Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Gillian Abramson sentenced Coco, who is 42, after more than three hours of a hearing that included emotional statements from the parents of one of the teens and Coco's family and friends.
"The fact (is), you were a police officer, you took an oath to protect and serve and you failed," Abramson said from the bench.
The judge denied Coco's lawyers request that his sentence begin Friday, and court bailiffs led him off to a side room.
The sentence also calls for two years of probation, a suspended prison term and restitution.
But Abramson did not go as far as special prosecutor Marc Hathaway had asked; she did not issue a recommendation against home confinement or work release.
Under a 2013 law, if a jail superintendent determines an inmate is eligible for home confinement, the superintendent can order it after notifying the prosecutor, who can then request a court hearing.
The law calls for Coco to spend at least two weeks in jail before any release.
The key dispute Wednesday was whether Coco was aware he had hit Dean Drukker and Noah Hickman after leaving a gathering at a fellow police officer's house. After apologizing to the parents of the teens, Coco said: "I did not mean to injure your sons, and I did not realize I injured them."
He blamed the March 22, 2013, accident on inattention and poor judgment.
A police investigation found Coco had a couple glasses of wine earlier in the evening. Police said most of his SUV was riding atop a snowbank when he hit the teens. Hickman was thrown 20 feet and suffered a back injury and broken elbow. Drukker was run over and suffered bleeding on the brain and a concussion.
Hickman’s father said he didn’t believe Coco.
“I do hope you truly confess and admit in your heart and mind what you did. It will help bring peace and you will not have to live with a lie anymore,” John Hickman said.
Judge Abramson questioned how Coco could not know he hit the teens, but had the wherewithal to avoid a mailbox in the snowbank.
Abramson also said Coco's statements to Bedford police investigators — that he had not left home that night — were simply not true.
Coco's lawyer, Mark Howard, said Coco had left work and visited two friends before going home. But once home, he had stayed home.
"Bedford police believe he lied. He did not," Howard said.
An FBI agent and two retired state police troopers submitted letters on behalf of Coco, and Howard — a former federal prosecutor — praised Coco's work as an undercover drug officer. During one investigation, Coco entered a barricaded Manchester crack house several times for drug buys.
"He's got to be a little bit crazy to do what he does," Howard said.
Coco, who had recently been promoted to sergeant, was fired shortly after the accident. Hathaway said he considered Coco's 17 years as a police officer in his sentence recommendation.