A Worcester Superior Court judge Thursday sentenced David K. Njuguna to a five- to seven-year prison term for plowing into a State Police cruiser on the Mass. Pike in 2016 in a devastating crash that killed Trooper Thomas Clardy.
Njuguna will receive credit for the approximately 3½ years he’s spent in custody while his case was pending.
“Thomas Clardy was a 45-year-old man who had his whole life ahead of him,” said Reisa Clardy, the widow of Clardy, who was a father of seven children. “Words cannot describe the loss, the emptiness, and the pain that I feel every day, that we all feel every day without Tom here.”
Clardy’s son, Tyler Clardy, also addressed the court, telling Judge Janet Kenton-Walker that the times of “comfort, humor, and joy” he shared with his father are “gone forever.”
Gabryella Clardy, the trooper’s daughter, struggled to maintain her composure as she began reading her statement, which her brother finished on her behalf. Her father’s death, she said, “haunts me every day,” adding that he taught her to “stand tall” and be proud of who she is.
Colonel Christopher Mason, the State Police superintendent, said in a statement that the agency is “painfully cognizant that no sentence can return Trooper Clardy to those who loved him and love him still.”
“This loss can never be restored, and everyone who loved or worked with Tom would prefer that the law allow for a sentence much more commensurate with the taking of a life under these circumstances,” said Mason. “Nonetheless we are aware of the sentencing guidelines prescribed by the law and we are grateful for the court’s consideration of the severity of this offense.”
Kenton-Walker last week found Njuguna guilty of involuntary manslaughter during a closely watched bench trial but cleared him of driving impaired on marijuana at the time of the crash.
The judge found Njuguna was speeding, tailgating, and weaving dangerously for about seven minutes before crashing into Clardy’s parked cruiser on the Pike in Charlton, where the trooper had pulled over another driver.
Rejecting Njuguna’s arguments that he sustained a medical episode before the crash, the judge also convicted Njuguna of misdemeanor motor vehicle homicide, driving to endanger the public, and driving an uninsured car.
But she acquitted Njuguna, a medical marijuana patient who bought four cannabis joints at a Brookline dispensary about an hour before the crash, of two additional counts of manslaughter while driving under the influence of marijuana and felony motor vehicle homicide. The judge found prosecutors didn’t prove he was too impaired to drive safely.
Prosecutors alleged Njuguna was high on March 16, 2016, when he lost control of his Nissan Maxima while driving 80 miles per hour and crashed into Clardy’s cruiser.
Officials said Clardy had returned to his vehicle after pulling over a driver for a traffic violation when the cruiser was struck by Njuguna’s car, which did not slow down before impact.
“I cannot bring you comfort, I cannot bring you peace, I cannot take the day away,” Kenton-Walker said Thursday from the bench shortly before the sentence was imposed. “I cannot make it right, go back in time, move the earth. . . . My job is to sentence in accordance with the law.”
She told Clardy’s children, “I know that he would be so proud of all of you.”
Earlier during the hearing, Assistant Worcester District Attorney Jeffrey Travers recommended a 10- to 12-year prison term for Njuguna, 33, a native of Kenya who was living in Webster at the time of the crash.
“The defendant’s behavior, in sum, demonstrated an absolute disregard for the [public’s] safety,” Travers said. “The defendant intentionally and selfishly created a substantial danger to everyone traveling on” the road that day.
Njuguna did not address the judge, but his lawyer, Peter Ettenberg, first offered condolences to Clardy’s family and State Police colleagues before requesting a sentence of 3½ to five years, noting his client’s remorse and lack of any prior criminal record.
“No question, the death of Tom Clardy is tragic,” Ettenberg said. “It’s tragic for David Njuguna as well.”
Referencing Njuguna’s work history and family ties in the area, as well as his lawful resident status, Ettenberg said, “He’s a good person who did a bad thing.”
But that was small comfort to Clardy’s mother, Kathy Anderson, whose victim-impact statement was read by prosecutors.
“My heart is truly shattered, and you, you alone are responsible,” she said. “I pray for the Lord to provide my family with comfort and peace and [to] take away the hatred I feel for you.”
A statement from Clardy’s sister, Michelle Clardy, was also read by prosecutors.
“On March 16, 2016, you made choices that impacted many peoples’ lives in a horrific manner,” she said, telling Njuguna that he “must be held accountable for what you have done.”
However, Michelle Clardy added, “for my peace of mind and hopefully yours, I want you to know that I forgive you.”
Njuguna had THC, the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana, in his blood roughly an hour after the crash, but Kenton-Walker ruled that was not enough to prove impairment.
THC can remain in someone’s blood for days or weeks after cannabis consumption, and its levels don’t correlate to someone’s level of impairment. There is no reliable scientific test to prove someone is too stoned to drive.