CHICAGO (CBS) — An ex-Chicago police detective imprisoned for a drunken 2009 crash that killed two men in a fiery wreck testified Thursday that he remembers little of the events that landed him an eight-year prison sentence.
Joseph Frugoli, 50, also testified that, to the best of his knowledge, he first drove drunk the day Fausto Manzera, 21, and Andrew Cazares, 23, were killed.
The men’s families are suing Frugoli and the city of Chicago, contending among other things that a code of silence in the police department led Frugoli to drink and drive with impunity.
The lawsuit went to trial at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse earlier this week. A lawyer for the city has argued Frugoli was off-duty at the time of the crash and was properly punished. Frugoli is not due out of prison until April 2019, records show.
During his sentencing hearing five years ago, Frugoli apologized to the victims’ families and said, “it’s not appropriate to ask for forgiveness. That would be selfish on my part.”
But on Thursday, Frugoli gave short, clipped answers to most of the lawyers’ questions. He wore a white shirt, black pants and glasses as he explained the gap in his memory of the events of April 10, 2009. He said it begins after his Lexus SUV struck a stalled Dodge Intrepid containing Manzera and Cazares on the Dan Ryan Expressway.
“The last thing I remember is a loud bang,” Frugoli said.
The Dodge burst into flames after the collision. But Frugoli said he doesn’t remember that.
Nor could he remember his SUV rolling along the road, or that he wandered away from the scene. He said his memories kick back in later, after he was taken to a hospital.
Frugoli’s blood-alcohol content was three times the legal limit, authorities determined. He spent four or five hours drinking at two bars before the crash, records show.
Protests followed the fatal crash and a Cook County judge’s decision to set Frugoli’s bail at $500,000. The Bridgeport native and son of a Chicago cop had a history of crashes and citizen complaints. He insisted Thursday he was suspended for five days over a fight in 1992 but otherwise escaped discipline until April 2009.
Frugoli would also admit he had a drinking problem he tried to curb by taking on late shifts at work. He agreed Thursday that his drinking began at age 16 and escalated as he got older.
In fact, throughout much of his career as a Chicago cop, Frugoli said he consumed between 10 and 20 drinks multiple times a week, despite a rule prohibiting officers from being intoxicated on or off duty.
However, Frugoli denied Thursday that alcohol played a role in two of his previous crashes, a day apart, in January 2008. The second took place during a return trip from an Indiana casino.
Frugoli pleaded guilty to aggravated DUI in 2012, and his lawyers begged Cook County Judge Charles P. Burns for probation during his sentencing hearing later that year.
The judge instead sent Frugoli to prison, telling the ex-cop, “I can’t get away from the fact of how drunk you were that night.”
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2016. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)