EXCLUSIVE REPORT: A judge in Hackensack refused to dismiss aggravated manslaughter charges against a Rutherford man who prosecutors say had a blood-alcohol level of .198 when his speeding sedan struck and killed a 28-year-old mother of four on an East Rutherford sidewalk a year and a half ago.
Unless 23-year-old Victor Kwak accepts a plea deal that prevents a trial, a jury should be allowed to weigh whether he was using his cellphone when he lost control of the car on Railroad Avenue the night of Aug. 22, 2013, Superior Court Judge Edward A. Jerejian ruled yesterday.
The 2006 Lexus GS430 went up on the sidewalk, where it knocked down a tree, a street light and a wooden utility pole before ramming into Sandra Munoz-Molina of Carlstadt, who was on the grounds of St. Mary’s High School, headed home from her beauty parlor job, authorities said.
Munoz-Molina was taken to Hackensack University Medical Center with serious head injuries. She died two days later.
Kwak originally was charged with aggravated assault by auto, but a grand jury in Hackensack indicted him on more serious aggravated manslaughter charges after reviewing the facts of the case.
Defense attorney John Latoracca said the grand jury took its action based on the belief that Kwak may have been using his cellphone at the time of the crash.
Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Martin Delaney said he made it clear to the grand jurors that “we are not alleging he was on his cellphone.”
However, Kwak may have provided that evidence himself, the judge said, when he told police responding to the crash that he’d had “a few beers” and was “trying to talk to my girlfriend.”
“In looking at the transcript [of grand jury proceedings], there is a lot more here than is being said, and this determination should be reserved for trial,” Jerejian said.
The black box on Kwak’s Lexus clocked him at 57 miles an hour in a 25mph zone just before the crash, Delaney told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .
Prosecutors also have an eyewitness, as well as another resident who reported seeing Kwak speed by from his porch, hearing the crash and running to the scene, he said.
Kwak — who is also charged with two counts of death by auto — has until April 1 to accept a plea deal or Jerejian said he will set a trial date.
If convicted at a trial, Kwak would likely face a state prison sentence of closer to 10 years, Delaney said.
He has remained free since posting $75,000 bail the day after the crash.
STORY/PHOTO: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
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