Sparta prosecutor takes hard line in case of detective charged in fatal Morristown accident

'IT'S NOT A SPEEDING TICKET': Sparta Municipal Prosecutor Jonathan McMeen, Feb. 13, 2020. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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On Thursday, it appeared that a Morris County detective would plead guilty to a motor vehicle violation for a collision that killed a Morristown pedestrian last year.

But the case, being heard in Sparta to avoid local conflicts, will resume next month because the municipal prosecutor is asking the judge to treat the matter more strictly than most traffic complaints.

Kristi Allegretta, a lieutenant with the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, struck Galina Kustanovich, an 80-year-old Russian immigrant, last June in a crosswalk outside the Ann Street seniors complex in Morristown, where Kustanovich lived with her husband.

From left: Defense attorney Denis Driscoll; Sparta Prosecutor Jonathan McMeen; and Daniel Marchese, lawyer for the Kustanovich family, appear before Sparta Municipal Judge Paris Eliades, Feb. 13, 2020. Morris County Detective Kristi Allegretta faces a motor vehicle charge in connection with an accident that killed Morristown pedestrian Galina Kustanovich in June 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office investigated and declined to press criminal charges.

Allegretta, who has been suspended with pay since the accident, faces a single charge of failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. The motor vehicle violation carries maximum penalties of $500 in fines, 25 days in jail, and license revocation for six months, when a serious bodily injury is involved.

Allegretta’s lawyer, Denis Driscoll, wants the plea to include a “civil reservation,” a fairly common stipulation that says a guilty plea cannot be used later as evidence of guilt in a civil lawsuit.

Sparta Municipal Prosecutor Jonathan McMeen told Sparta Municipal Judge Paris Eliades that he opposes granting a civil reservation in this case.

“It’s a tough one. It’s not a speeding ticket,” McMeen said after Thursday’s brief proceeding. Because of the “nature and extent of what occurred,” he said, “it’s not easy for either side.”

Allegretta did not appear in court. The victim’s daughter, Marina, attended, with an attorney for the estate, Daniel Marchese.

“I think Jon McMeen is doing the right thing for the victim’s family,” Marchese said. The family has notified Morris County of its intention to sue over Galina Kustanovich’s death, the lawyer said.

The judge may rule on the civil reservation question at the next hearing.

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