Acting Morris County Prosecutor Fredric M. Knapp announced today that Michael Cassella, age 30, of Howell, New Jersey pled guilty to one count of Aggravated Manslaughter, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:ll-4, a crime of the First Degree. The defendant also pled guilty to Driving While Intoxicated, a violation ofN.J.S.A. 39:4-50.
On October 16, 2011 the defendant, driving while intoxicated shortly after midnight on Interstate Route 80 West, in the Township of Roxbury, lost control of his vehicle, crossed the center line, and crashed into the marked police vehicle of veteran Mount Arlington Police Officer Joseph Wargo. Officer Wargo was 38 years old at the time of the accident. Officer Wargo died as a result of injuries sustained during the collision.
In exchange for a plea of guilty to Aggravated Manslaughter, the State recommended the defendant receive a term of imprisonment of 20 years, subject to applicability of the No Early Release Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2. The defendant also pled guilty to Driving While Intoxicated. For that offense, the State recommended that any sentence imposed run concurrent with the Aggravated Manslaughter sentence. The State also moved for immediate revocation of the defendant’s bail and subsequent incarceration.
“The senseless death of Officer Wargo warrants a strong response from the criminal justice system,” said Acting Prosecutor Knapp. “All members of the Morris County and State law · enforcement communities grieve his passing, and we extend our heartfelt sympathy to his family.”
As a result of the No Early Release Act, the defendant is subject to a term of parole ineligibility of 85 percent of the sentence imposed by the Court on the Aggravated Manslaughter plea. The defendant will also be subject to five years parole supervision, and is responsible for all fines, assessments and penalties.
Acting Morris County Prosecutor Knapp would like to commend and thank the New Jersey State Police, the Morris County Sheriffs Office, Mt. Arlington Police Chief Keith Licata, the Mt. Arlington Police Department and the Roxbury Police Department for their exemplary work on this matter. In addition, he would like to thank the Assistant Prosecutors and Investigators from the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office for the countless hours they devoted in bringing this matter to a conclusion.
Any inquiries can be directed to First Assistant Morris County Prosecutor/SDAG Thomas Zelante, at 973-285-6252 or [email protected] .