YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: 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 pleaded guilty to second-degree death by auto charges this morning in exchange for a five-year prison sentence.
A judge last month refused to dismiss aggravated manslaughter charges against 24-year-old Victor Kwak, setting the stage for today’s plea.
Kwak must serve 4⅓ years behind bars before he’ll be eliglble for parole in exchange for admitting today that he was speeding, drunk and reckless when he his car struck Sandra Munoz-Molina of Carlstadt the night of Aug. 22, 2013.
His driving privileges also will be suspended for five years after his release.
Kwak admitted this morning that he’d had several mixed drinks in the hours leading up to 7:40 p.m. crash.
Authorities said his Lexus GS430 went up on the sidewalk on Railroad Avenue, where it knocked down a tree, a street light and a wooden utility pole, then rammed into Munoz-Molina, who was headed home from her beauty parlor job.
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 when he told police responding to the crash that he’d had “a few beers” and was “trying to talk to my girlfriend,” Superior Court Judge Edward A. Jerejian said during a hearing last month.
“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,” the judge 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 had 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.
If he’d been convicted at a trial of aggravated manslaughter, Kwak could have faced up to 30 years in state prison, Superior Court Judge Edward A. Jerejian told him this morning. The judge set sentencing for Sept. 18.
Kwak has remained free since posting $75,000 bail the day after the crash.
STORY/PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
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