Robert Koistinen Trial Begins With Key Witness Statements
A former Windsor Locks police officer who is accused of protecting his son Michael from a blood alcohol test after a fatal hit-and-run crash was found not guilty of hindering charges.
Sgt. Robert Koistinen was charged with hindering prosecution in the third-degree in an investigation into the crash that killed Henry Dang, 15, who was riding his bicycle, early on the morning of Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010.
The jury reached a verdict of not guilty on Wednesday afternoon. Koistinen family members sobbed as the verdict was delivered, while Dang's family members did not say anything.
Michael Koistinen was off duty at the time of the crash and witnesses reported seeing him drinking for hours before he struck the teen.
Robert Koistinen took the stand in his own defense and insisted that as soon as he realized his son was involved in the crash, he tried to remove himself from the investigation.
“What kind of credibility would I have had if I had done that?,” he said. “I’m the kid’s father, so if I started investigating it, who is going to believe what I say?”
On Wednesday, defense attorney Elliot Spector pointed out that Robert made sure independent investigators got to the scene as soon as possible.
"He immediately called the dispatcher and said, 'Get the chief, get the captain, get Nick Marks here right away cause he knew ethically he could not be involved," Spector said.
The prosecution told another story.
In his 20 minute closing argument, prosecutor John Fahey painted a picture of Robert Koistinen as a man torn between his duty as a police sergeant and as a father to Michael.
"The problem is, he never took off that police hat, not until the criminal acts were over. And with that police hat, he accomplished things for Michael he could never accomplished strictly as a parent," Fahey said.
Jeanne Johnson, who witnessed the crash, told jurors she told Sgt. Robert Koistinen she had seen the driver throw something onto her lawn, away from his car. It turned out to be a broken beer glass with beer still in it.
Johnson said Sgt. Koistinen did not make a thorough search for the object.
Michael Koistinen was sentenced to a five-year prison sentence for manslaughter in connection with the crash.
An independent report found that Robert Koistinen was one of the first officers to respond and took his son away from the scene.
The younger Koistinen was never given a breathalyzer or a blood alcohol test after the crash.
Michael and Robert Koistinen have both been fired.