Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark. Originally published here.
BRIDGETON — Timothy Seidel, the Laurel Lake man responsible for a crash that killed Millville Police Officer Christopher Reeves and injured another officer during a police pursuit in 2012, was sentenced to 19 years in state prison Friday at the Cumberland County Courthouse.
Family, friends, law enforcement officers dressed in uniform, filled the courtroom to capacity. Sitting in the second row in tears was Reeves’ parents, Kathleen and Wayne, Reeves’ widow, Susan, and Millville Police Officer Jonathan Seidel, who was in the patrol car with Reeves at the time of the crash that left him with severe and permanent injuries. Jonathan Seidel is not related to Timothy.
“Not only did he take my son, but you took my heart, my future — and my joy in life,” said a tearful Kathleen Reeves in a prepared statement in front of the courtroom.
Speaking about Reeves’ 4-year-old son, Alex, Kathleen added, “And he left a little boy who had a father who loved him more than anything in the world. With nothing more than a picture on his dresser to remember his dad.”
Susan Reeves, an officer at the Millville Police Department, said her late husband’s death caused her to give up her career, in order to take care of Alex.
” … I had to give it up,” she said. “I couldn’t do it anymore. I had to be there for my son … he took a good man from this world.”
Later, Susan said she was still in the process of retiring from the department.
During Susan Reeves’ statement, a law enforcement officer standing in the back of the courtroom broke down and walked out.
Jonathan Seidel, who sustained a fractured arm, broken rib, punctured lung, and a severe concussion as a result of the accident, addressed having the same last name as Timothy — something he said has caused embarrassment and immense emotional pain since the incident.
“I worked hard to make the name ‘Seidel’ one that I would be proud to bear and one that my son would be proud to bear,” he said. “Tim Seidel, in one night of horrible choices, has overshadowed any good that my name has brought with me. We are not related in any way. However, when someone hears the last name … they don’t think of my achievements, they just think evil.”
Cumberland County assistant prosecutors Mike Ostrowski and Charles Wettstein represented the state with Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Robert Malestein presiding over the sentencing.
Timothy Seidel was represented by Jeffery Hark, of Hark & Hark in Cherry Hill.
In August, in exchange for an “open” plea deal with the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office — in which no agreed upon sentence was established with the state before the hearing Friday — Timothy Seidel pleaded guilty to first-degree aggravated manslaughter while eluding police and second-degree aggravated assault while eluding police.
Because the agreement was an “open” plea, the state had the ability to argue and attempt to convince Malestein to issue Timothy Seidel the maximum sentence of 20 years.
In arguing for the maximum sentence Friday, the state said the event was “a series of conscious decisions” made by Timothy Seidel — decisions it said “could have been stopped at any time.”
On July 8, 2012, Timothy Seidel was driving in Millville when a police vehicle behind him put its lights on. Seidel did not pull over, but continued to drive away in speeds in excess of 70 mph from the patrol car that was attempting to stop him.
Reeves, inside his patrol car with Jonathan Seidel, responded to a call for backup.
At about 2:15 a.m., Timothy Seidel struck Reeves’ patrol car, with Jonathan Seidel inside, near the intersection of Broad and Third streets, killing Reeves and severely injuring Jonathan Seidel.
According to the state, Timothy Seidel went down streets in the wrong direction, sideswiped a vehicle and blew through a red light. He also had a blood alcohol content level of .16 during the time of the pursuit, according to previous reports.
Before being sentenced, Timothy Seidel stood — hands shackled and wearing an orange jumpsuit — to read a prepared statement to the courtroom.
“I am disgusted with my actions and I will regret them for the rest of my life,” he said. “ … I made the decision to elude police — an action that led to this horrible event ... I take responsibility for my actions.”
Timothy Seidel’s mother also spoke, saying she wished she “could turn back the clock.”
Seidel was issued two sentences that will run consecutively — 14 years in state prison on the charge of aggravated manslaughter for Reeves’ death and five years on a charge of aggravated assault for the injuries sustained by Jonathan Seidel.
The 19-year sentence is subject to the No Early Release Act, requiring him to serve at least 85 percent of his sentence — or about 16 years — before being eligible for parole.
He will be credited 397 days for time served.
After the sentencing, Reeves’ family, friends and the many police officers in attendance, hugged and kissed — many in tears — in the hallway, outside the courtroom.
When asked how she felt, Susan Reeves said, “It’s kind of hard to explain.”
“Better — better than I expected. Hopefully now we can move forward … Just continue to take care of Alex.”