Man gets up to 20 years in Mass. trooper's killing
Thomas Clardy was killed after his patrol vehicle was rear-ended during a 2016 traffic stop
WORCESTER, Mass. — A Webster man was convicted Tuesday on manslaughter and motor vehicle homicide charges in the death of State Trooper Thomas Clardy in 2016, but was also found not guilty by the judge on two felony counts alleging he was high on pot when he slammed into Clardy’s parked cruiser.
The ruling comes in the first major case involving a marijuana-linked road death since recreational weed was legalized in 2016.
David Njuguna, 33, shook his head and looked down, while a woman in Clardy’s family wiped away a tear as a silent Worcester County Superior courtroom listened to Njuguna’s conviction on four of six counts after a seven-day bench trial last month.
Judge Janet Kenton-Walker found Njuguna guilty on counts of involuntary manslaughter, misdemeanor motor vehicle homicide, operating to endanger and driving an uninsured vehicle.
Njuguna was spared on operating under the influence-manslaughter and felony motor vehicle homicide charges, as prosecutors didn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt Njuguna was impaired from marijuana, Kenton-Walker explained.
The judge concluded Njuguna smoked a pot cigarette purchased from a medical dispensary in Brookline “sometime prior” to the crash.
“There was no evidence that the level of THC found in Mr. Njuguna’s blood that the ability to operate his vehicle was impaired,” Kenton-Walker said. She also cited the lack of a burnt pot odor in Njuguna’s 2011 Nissan Maxima and testimony by a doctor in forming her decision.
Lawyers for Njuguna claimed their client suffered a seizure at the time of the crash.
Njuguna, in gray slacks, a blue shirt and tie, was taken into custody as his bail was revoked. He will return to court Nov. 21 for sentencing.
He faces up to 20 years in prison for the involuntary manslaughter charge. He could have faced a mandatory minimum of 2 1/2 years and maximum of 15 years in prison for the felony motor vehicle homicide charge.
Michael Hussey, Njuguna’s attorney, declined to comment on the verdict, noting he was only appointed after Njuguna’s relationship with his previous lawyers broke down after Njuguna had an outburst in the courtroom before closing arguments last month.
Clardy’s widow and seven children, who sat the courtroom’s first row, were ushered out without speaking to reporters.
Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement he hopes the Clardy family found closure in the ruling and called marijuana’s legalization a “very real threat” to Massachusetts roads.
“The proliferation of marijuana use across the Commonwealth as a result of legalization is creating a very real threat to our roadways,” Baker’s statement read, “and I urge lawmakers to pass our legislation to allow police officers to do their jobs and get impaired drivers off our roadways.”
Departing State Police Col. Kerry Gilpin called the verdict “just.”
“There always will be an empty seat at the Clardy’s table,” Gilpin’s statement said, “and a hole in the hearts of the Massachusetts State Police.”