Florence women gets probation in January OUI crash

  • Officer Matthew Knowlton’s car after the crash on Rocky Hill Road on Jan. 30, 2021. NORTHAMPTON POLICE

Staff Writer
Published: 7/30/2021 6:46:31 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A city woman who was driving more than twice the speed limit and crashed into a Northampton police cruiser, badly injuring an officer in January, was sentenced to two years’ probation and a one-year loss of license Friday in Northampton District Court.

The sentence was the result of a plea deal between prosecutors and a defense attorney representing Maleaha Lee Aquadro, 26, of Florence. The plea deal was fully supported by the Northampton Police Department and Officer Matthew Knowlton, who broke a leg in the nighttime crash on Route 66 that totaled his cruiser and underwent multiple surgeries.

Aquadro pleaded guilty to one count of reckless operation of a motor vehicle and one count of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol. The prosecution dropped charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, speeding, and marked lanes and seat belt violations. As part of her sentence, Aquadro must complete a driver alcohol education program and perform 100 hours of community service, among other conditions.

The plea agreement was recommended jointly by Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Andrew Covington and defense attorney Michael McHale and approved by Judge Jacklyn Connly.

“This is not a slap on the wrist,” Covington said. “We’re hoping that Ms. Aquadro doesn’t squander this opportunity.”

Covington said Aquadro was traveling at 76 mph in a 35 mph zone when her vehicle crossed the double yellow line and collided with Knowlton’s police cruiser on Rocky Hill Road. Knowlton cut himself out of his seat belt and rendered aid to Aquadro, fearing her car might catch on fire. Aquadro was later found to have had a 0.19 blood alcohol level when her blood from the night of the crash was tested.

“He risked his own life to save the life of Miss Aquadro,” Covington said.

Northampton District Court Judge Jacklyn Connly accepted the plea deal after emotional courtroom statements from both Knowlton and Aquadro.

“I’m just so fortunate that I’m here and Miss Aquadro’s here,” Knowlton said.

Knowlton noted that his injuries are improving and that he’ll be able to return to work. He also said that he would like himself and Aquadro to move on from the crash.

“I forgive Miss Aquadro,” Knowlton said.

After he spoke, Judge Connly commended Knowlton on his actions that evening and in the months since.

Aquadro read a statement in court and said that she hopes that Knowlton will one day be able to forgive her.

“There has not been a day that goes by that I don’t feel remorse and regret for my actions,” she said.

Covington said that it’s lucky Aquadro was not in Superior Court on motor vehicle homicide charges. He noted Aquardo’s lack of a criminal record, taking responsibility for her actions, and Knowlton’s recovery as factors in the plea deal.

McHale, Aquadro’s defense attorney, said Aquadro suffered a head injury in the crash and had no memory of that night. He also said  Aquardo has been attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and has been seeing a therapist since the incident, and that she asked to write a letter of apology before he even suggested it. Because she has no memory of events leading up to the crash, Aquardo said she was unable to provide the court with where she had her last drink.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.
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