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Jury selection beginning in Conn. officer's trial

May 19, 2012 12:57:55 PM PDT
Nineteen months after teenager Henry Dang was struck and killed while riding his bicycle in Windsor Locks, jury selection is set to begin for the trial of a former police officer accused of crashing into the high school sophomore.

The prosecution and defense in the case of Michael Koistinen of Suffield are scheduled to start picking jurors Monday in Hartford Superior Court. The trial is slated to begin June 19.

The former police officer is charged with first-degree manslaughter, misconduct with a motor vehicle and tampering with evidence in the Oct. 30, 2010, accident that killed the 15-year-old Dang. Koistinen, 26, faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted of all three charges.

Prosecutor John Fahey and defense lawyer Raymond Hassett declined to comment about jury selection or the trial. A lawyer for Dang's family didn't return a message.

Police say Koistinen had been drinking beer and other alcoholic beverages for several hours, including outside a University of Connecticut football game and at a Suffield bar, before he struck Dang at more than 70 mph in a 35 mph zone. One of the Windsor Locks officers who responded to the scene was Koistinen's father, Sgt. Robert Koistinen.

A state police investigation found that Robert Koistinen drove his son away from the crash site to the police station and back as many as three times, and later prevented an investigating officer from interviewing and getting a blood sample from Michael Koistinen when he was treated at a hospital.

Robert Koistinen was charged with hindering the investigation and awaits trial. Both father and son were fired from the police department.

An 82-page independent investigation report found a series of problems with the way police responded to the accident, including officials' failure to question Michael Koistinen about possible alcohol consumption at the scene and their failure to test his blood-alcohol level. The report found no evidence of a cover-up, but faulted department officials for a lack of leadership and poor management.

Troopers said authorities found an unopened 30-pack of beer, several other unopened beer containers and many bottle caps in Michael Koistinen's car. They also said a beer glass was found near the scene and officials believe Koistinen threw it from his car, which resulted in the tampering with evidence charge. Police and paramedics at the scene said they didn't notice any signs of Koistinen being intoxicated.

Because a blood test wasn't done, authorities said they couldn't charge Koistinen with drunken driving. Court records show that hospital officials destroyed a urine sample from Koistinen under hospital policy before police obtained a search warrant for Koistinen's medical records.

Michael Koistinen's former lawyer had denied allegations that Koistinen was drunk, and blamed the accident on the night's darkness.

Dang's family settled its wrongful death suit against Michael Koistinen and a former tavern owner last year for $420,000.

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