BRIDGETON — Retracting his previous not guilty plea, Timothy Seidel admitted to being responsible for the death of Millville Police Officer Christopher Reeves before a Cumberland County judge Monday afternoon.
Reeves died on July 8, 2012, after his patrol car was struck by Seidel during a police pursuit.
Seidel, 25, of Laurel Lake, plead guilty to the first-degree charge of aggravated manslaughter while eluding police and second-degree charge of aggravated assault while eluding police.
“Are you pleading guilty to these two counts because you are, in fact, guilty?” asked Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Robert Malestein at Monday’s status conference in the county courthouse.
“Yes sir,” answered Seidel.
His attorney, Jeffrey Hark of Hark & Hark in Cherry Hill, submitted the plea in hopes of a deal where Seidel receives no more than 20 years in a state prison.
Not included in the guilty plea were the additional charges against Seidel of eluding and vehicle homicide.
The maximum sentence is 20 years in prison for the aggravated manslaughter charge and up to $200,000 in fines; and the maximum is 10 years in prison and $150,000 in fines for the aggravated assault charge.
According to Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae, the guilty plea is an “open” plea because there was no previously agreed upon sentence.
“A plea structured like this treats the defendant as if he were found guilty at trial on these charges by jury,” Webb-McRae said.
“An open plea allows the state to argue and attempt to convince Judge Malestein to sentence all the way up to the maximum sentenced allowed by law on the charges of aggravated manslaughter while eluding, which is 20 years.”
Cumberland County assistant prosecutors Michael Ostrowski and Charles Wettstein are representing the state in the case.
The guilty plea is a result of Seidel choosing to accept responsibility for his conduct, according to Hark.
“After an extensive review of the facts and legal issues involved in this case, Mr. Seidel has arrived at the conclusion that he would like to move forward and start the process of closure for both himself and the family of officer Reeves,” Hark said.
After pleading guilty, Seidel confirmed facts about the July 8, 2012 accident that killed Reeves and injured officer Johnathan Seidel — no relation to Timothy Seidel.
He confirmed that he was driving in Millville on July 8, 2012 when he saw a law enforcement vehicle behind him with its lights on. He confirmed that he knew he should have pulled over and that he continued to drive away from the law enforcement vehicle attempting to stop him.
According to previous reports, Seidel was driving in excess of 70 mph and was allegedly drunk at the time the pursuit began.
Once the pursuit started, police called for back up, with Reeves and Johnathan Seidel responding to the dispatch call.
At 2:15 a.m., Seidel struck the patrol car at the intersection of 3rd and Broad streets — killing Reeves and injuring Johnathan Seidel.
Johnathan Seidel was being mentored by Reeves at the time, having just transferred to the Millville Police Department from the Salem County Sheriff’s Office two weeks prior to the accident.
He has since returned to the Millville Police Department.
By pleading guilty to the aggravated assault charge, Seidel also took responsibility for the injuries suffered by Johnathan Seidel from the accident.
Seidel was hoping to be hired by the Millville Police Department himself but, according to previous reports, his rejection letter was in the mail when the accident occurred. He was rejected for not being a resident of Millville.
The sentence date for Seidel is Oct. 24 at 1:30 p.m.
“We’ve gotten a guilty plea today and we’re excited about having the opportunity to go to sentencing and have victim impact statements from the family so that they can tell us in their own words how they’ve been impacted by this very tragic event,” Webb-McRae said.
Members of the Reeves family and the Millville Police Department declined to comment on Monday.
According to the No Early Release Act, Seidel would have to serve 85 percent of the sentence before he is eligible for parole and, if he is found violating his parole, could be sent to prison for an additional five years.
Seidel is being held in the Cumberland County Jail in lieu of $400,000 bail.
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