WORCESTER, MA — A Worcester Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday that David Njuguna is guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Massachusetts State Trooper Thomas Clardy. But the judge also ruled that prosecutors did not present enough evidence to show that Njuguna’s marijuana use was a credible factor in the crash.
Njuguna has maintained his innocence since the 2016 crash along the Mass Pike that killed Clardy, saying that he suffered a seizure. But the Worcester County District Attorney said that Njuguna, 33, was high on marijuana and driving recklessly in the moments before the crash.
Worcester Superior Court Judge Janet Kenton-Walker affirmed that the crash that killed Clary was caused by Njuguna’s intentional reckless driving. He was seen speeding, tailgating, and changing lanes without signaling in the moments before the crash, witnesses testified during the trial.
Clardy, 44, died on March 16, 2016, during a traffic stop in Charlton. Njuguna, who prosecutors say was going over 80 MPH, swerved across three lanes and hit Clardy’s parked patrol SUV, pushing it down an embankment. Njuguna had stopped at the NETA Brookline medical marijuana dispensary before the crash.
THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, was detected in Njuguna’s blood, and burnt marijuana was found in his car. But his defense attorneys argued that there’s no test available that can reliably show if a person was high at a given time. Unlike alcohol, THC can stay in a person’s bloodstream for up to a week after ingestion
Kenton-Walker agreed, and said that the state did not provide an expert to who could show that marijuana had impaired Njuguna’s ability to drive.
“The fact that Njuguna consumed some [marijuana] before the crash does not prove he was intoxicated or his ability to operate was impaired,” Kenton-Walker said Tuesday
Here’s how Judge Janet Kenton-Walker ruled on the charges Njuguna was facing:
- Count 1, involuntary manslaughter: guilty
- Count 2, OUI manslaughter: not guilty
- Count 3, felony motor vehicle homicide: not guilty
- Count 4, misdemeanor motor vehicle homicide: guilty
- Count 5, operating an uninsured vehicle: guilty
- Count 6, operating to endanger: guilty
But Kenton-Walker excoriated Njuguna’s behavior before the crash, saying he had “conscious disregard to other hazards, including Trooper Clardy’s cruiser.”
Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. issued a brief statement after the ruling, but did not address the split decision.
“I want to thank our prosecutors and the state police investigative team for their hard work on this case. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Clardy family,” Early said in a statement.
Njuguna elected to have a bench trial rather than go before a jury. The proceedings kicked off on Oct. 21 and were marked by several strange turns. Njuguna’s attorneys withdrew from the case on Oct. 28, and the defendant had an outburst in court where he apologized to Clardy’s widow.
Clardy, a Hudson resident and father of seven, was a Marine Corps veteran. He joined the State Police in April 2005, graduating as a member of the 77th Recruit Training Troop. He worked at the Brookfield, Northampton, and Sturbridge Barracks, and then for the Troop C Community Action Team. He was assigned to the Charlton Barracks in November 2012.
Dozens of state troopers attended the verdict on Tuesday. Njuguna’s bail was revoked ahead of his sentencing on Nov. 21.
Involuntary manslaughter in Massachusetts is up to a maximum of 20 years
Misdemeanor Motor Vehicle Homicide: 30 days-2 1/2 years in jail or prison, fines and 15 year license revocation.