HARTFORD, Conn. – A Hartford man pleaded guilty to manslaughter Monday in a fatal hit-and-run that sparked outrage and soul-searching because a video showed bystanders ignoring the victim.
Luis Negron agreed to a plea bargain in Hartford Superior Court on the day his trial was supposed to start. He also pleaded guilty to evading responsibility for leaving the scene of the accident.
The plea bargain calls for up to 12 years in prison; prosecutors said Negron had faced up to 30 years. Sentencing is set for May 3, which would have been the 80th birthday of the victim, Angel Arce Torres.
He was struck May 30, 2008, by a car driven by Negron, who was chasing another motorist in a dispute over money, prosecutor John F. Fahey said in court; Torres died a year later. The state medical examiner's office ruled that the accident caused his death.
A surveillance video showed cars and trucks driving past Torres as he lay injured in the street and bystanders doing nothing. That prompted Hartford Police Chief Daryl Roberts to proclaim that the city had lost its "moral compass."
Police say several people did call 911. The video aired on news broadcasts nationwide and remains on YouTube.
Roberts changed his opinion of the city after Negron was arrested in May 2009. He said he believed Hartford was a caring community because people came forward with information that led to Negron's arrest on the same day as Torres' funeral.
Negron, 33, initially denied involvement in the accident. But police said he admitted to being the driver of the car that hit Torres after authorities confronted him with a statement from his girlfriend, who told investigators that Negron confessed to her.
A lawyer for Negron, Carmine Giuliano, had said that Negron's statement to police was made under duress, which authorities denied, and that the only evidence against Negron was hearsay.
Several family members, wearing buttons displaying Torres' face and the dates he was born and died, wept during the court session.
Torres' son, Angel Arce, said a plea bargain resulting in anything less than 30 years was unacceptable.
"We're not happy with it," he told reporters after the 30-minute court hearing. "The full amount — 30 years — that's what we want to see."
Fahey, the prosecutor, said in court that "despite his actions, what Mr. Negron did was an accident."
Judge David Gold said he will take into account written comments and other information before he imposes a sentence.