Tonawanda News

January 31, 2013

Former Erie County deputy gets 2 to 6 years for DWI crash

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — BUFFALO — A former Erie County sheriff’s deputy, Michael Haug, who critically injured a motorcyclist in August while driving drunk was sentenced Wednesday to two to six years in prison.

“You will carry the weight of this incident for the rest of your life,” Judge Thomas Francyzk told Haug. 

Haug, 29, of Kenmore, pleaded guilty to vehicular assault and DWI charges in November, after he struck David Colosimo at the intersection of Sheridan Drive and Bailey Avenue in Amherst while off-duty. 

Colosimo, 37, of the Town of Tonawanda, suffered serious head and internal injuries, was in a coma in the Erie County Medical Center for five days following the accident and underwent numerous surgeries. Wednesday, he spoke to the judge about his suffering.

“I can’t get out of bed in the morning without aches and pains, I have scars from my head to my toe,” he said. “I ask you to give Mr. Haug the maximum sentence, because next time the person might not be here to talk.”

Although Francyzk said in November he was inclined to cap Haug’s sentence at four years, the judge said Wednesday he was not bound by those comments, adding that he opted for the higher sentence after learning that Haug was previously pulled over for DWI in 2009.

Haug, who resigned from his position in November after 51/2 years on the job, was not charged after the incident four years ago and only attended counseling.

”Instead of being charged, you were shown a professional courtesy,” Francyzk said. “I don’t think that did you any favors.”

Francyzk also said Haug’s role as an officer played a large part in his decision.

”That’s something you are 24 hours a day,” he said. 

Haug, who faced a maximum sentence of seven years, will serve at least two years in state prison. He will then be able to go before the parole board, said Kelly Omel, the assistant district attorney assigned to the case.

Omel reviewed some facts from the pre-sentencing report in the packed courtroom, full of Haug and Colosimo’s supporters. 

”He admitted to having seven beers and seven shots of tequila between 1 and 4 a.m.,” Omel said. “He did admit to going 60 mph on Sheridan 1.7 seconds before the air bags deployed.”

Haug’s blood alcohol content was 0.25 percent, more than three times the legal limit, according to a blood draw that was completed after the accident. 

Colosimo, a father of two, was sitting at a red light on his 1982 at Sheridan and Bailey when Haug struck him from behind in his 2011 Jeep at 4 a.m. Aug. 4. Colosimo and his brother, Jerry, also in attendance Wednesday, wouldn’t comment on where Colosimo was coming from, except to say it was a “night out with the guys” and “no alcohol was involved.”

Colosimo has just recently returned to work as a part-time mechanic, and said his ability to appear in court is nothing short of a miracle.

Haug’s attorney, Brian Melber, also spoke to Francyzk on Haug’s character and his remorse. 

”Michael Haug is a good man ... because he stands up for his actions, and he has tried to atone for what he did,” Melber said. “He didn’t leave the scene of the accident, he didn’t run, he didn’t hide ... he stayed, and tried to help.”

Melber also said Haug has been volunteering at Headway of Western New York, a support agency for those with head injuries, and has spoken to victim impact panels about how drinking affected both his and Colosimo’s lives. 

”Apart from the sentence imposed today, he will have permanent lifelong sacrifices ... the loss of his reputation with his family and friends, his job, and his lifelong aspiration and hope, to be a police officer. All of that now, is gone,” Melber said. 

Haug then spoke directly to Colosimo.

”Daniel, I know that anything I say right now won’t take the pain away you and your family suffered,” Haug said. “I will continue to pray and hope that you make a full recovery.” 

But Colosimo told reporters after the sentencing that he didn’t buy Haug’s apology. 

”It didn’t mean anything,” he said. “I don’t believe him.”

When asked if he could come to forgive Haug in due time, as the judge suggested during his comments, Colosimo quickly replied no. 

Haug, who was taken away in handcuffs following the court appearance, has 30 days to appeal the sentence. Melber declined to comment on whether he will appeal. 

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150