ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Former Albuquerque police Sgt. Adam Casaus was handcuffed and whisked out of district court Friday afternoon to immediately start serving three months in jail for a careless driving conviction.
Casaus was convicted in September after a trial for a wreck that killed 21-year-old Ashley Browder seriously injured her younger sister, Lindsay. Casaus was charged with reckless driving and faced 9 years in prison but a jury convicted him of a lesser charge, and 90 days in jail was the maximum sentence.
District Judge Richard Knowles handed down the sentence after an emotional hearing where Ashley Browder’s parents talked about the moment they learned of the oldest child’s death. And Lindsay said Casaus was a “piece of human garbage” and a “pathetic man” for claiming at trial that she might have caused the crash.
Casaus was off duty in a marked police SUV driving west on Paseo del Norte when he crashed in Lindsay’s Honda CRV as it crossed Eagle Ranch Road in February 2013. Ashley, asleep in the front seat, was killed. Lindsay and several witnesses told police that Casaus ran a red light.
Casaus said he was chasing a suspect even though investigators found no evidence of that. At trial, he took the stand and said he had a green light. It was the first time he suggested that, and the Browders slammed him and said it was a crude tactic.
“Adam (Casaus) committed perjury on that stand he said he had a green light when he plowed into my daughters,” Donna Browder, Ashley and Lindsay’s mother, said during the sentencing hearing.
Donna spoke via Skype from her home in Nevada. Charles Browder, Ashley and Lindsay’s father who lives in Albuquerque, also addressed the court from a television monitor because he was recently injured.
Charles talked about driving to the emergency room after the crash, knowing Ashley had died and having to tell Lindsay, who was 19 at the time. She was driving her older sister home from a night out Downtown with friends.
Donna got a 3 a.m. phone call telling her Ashley had died.
“My mind wouldn’t go there,” she said. “I could hear screams before I realized they were mine.”
Ashley was a member of the Air National Guard. The sentencing hearing started with a seven-minute video that showed pictures of her growing up.
“Ashley Browder is a permanent fixture in my mind,”Casaus said as he addressed the court. He didn’t ask for leniency. He said he would pray the Browders receive closure.
Knowles said Casaus won’t be eligible for good time credits. The former officer will serve the entire sentence at the Metropolitan Detention Center.
“What the Browders have suffered so out weighs what Mr. Casaus is enduring that I’m almost embarrassed to bring it up,” Knowles said. “What I’m giving to Mr. Casaus is the stiffest we can under the law.”
Knowles also fined Casaus the maximum $300, but he said the fee would be waived if he gives that much to the Browders. The Browders have a pending federal lawsuit against Casaus and the city of Albuquerque.
John D’Amato, Casaus’ attorney, asked that his client serve the sentence outside of jail while wearing a monitoring device because of concerns for his safety. He said Casaus and his law office have received numerous death threats, especially since the verdict was announced. D’Amato said at least one of the death threats was sent from the county jail.
After he hearing, he said he will work to try to ensure Casaus’ safety while in jail.
“I’m concerned with his safety as a former police officer given the level the threats, given the level of the emotions this case has generated and just the general nature of the public’s opinion of the police right now,” D’Amato said.
Casaus’ supporters stayed in the courtroom for several minutes after the sentence was announced, his mother sobbing loudly, before deputies at the courthouse escorted the supporters down a back stairwell. D’Amato said the side was expecting the jail sentence.
“It’s not a surprise. Everybody was prepared for it,” he said. “It doesn’t compare when you are talking about the 90 days and the (Browder’s) loss.”