STATEN ISLAND — The former Linden police officer charged with driving drunk and crashing his car, killing two passengers, as he returned from a strip club, had been to the club dozens of times before, a long-time bartender testified Tuesday afternoon.
Christina Occhiuto testified in court that she had seen former officer Pedro Abad in the Curves strip club probably more than 70 times prior to the early morning of the fatal crash on March 20, 2015.
Occhiuto, who has worked at the bar more than 19 years, said she had never served Abad a drink because he preferred other bartenders, particular one named Tiffany, who he went to for drinks almost exclusively.
“Ninty-five percent of the time,” Occhiuto said of Abad going to the one bartender. She said on March 17, 2015, three days before the fatal crash, Abad and Tiffany were at the club together on Tiffany’s night off from bartending.
The jury saw a photograph that was posted on Abad’s Instagram, showing him with Tiffany, each of them sticking out their tongues and her making an obscene hand gesture.
Abad is accused of leaving the bar on March 20, 2015 with three other men from Linden and driving-drunk, making a wrong turn onto the West Shore Expressway and crashing into a truck. Authorities say Abad’s blood-alcohol level at the time of the crash was three times the legal limit.
Fellow Linden officer Frank Viggiano and Linden resident Joseph Rodriguez, both 28, were passengers in the car and were killed in the crash. A third Linden officer, Patrik Kudlac, then 23, was also in the car and was critically injured. He was later forced to resign from the department because of his injuries. Abad was later fired because his injuries prevented him from returning to work.
Under questioning from Abad’s attorney, Mario Gallucci, Occhiuto said she saw Abad leave the bar shortly before the crash and said he did not appear intoxicated.
Assistant District Attorney Mark Palladino quickly jumped in, getting Occhiuto to admit that investigators from the club had also questioned her about that night because the club is being sued by relatives of Rodriguez and Viggiano.
Occhiuto said she had seen all the four men at the bar prior to the night of the crash, including Rodriguez, who she said had been there two or three times before.
However, there was earlier testimony that the club’s records showed this was Rodriguez’ first time at Curves. Club bouncer Gerard Wagner previously testified that staff members scan identification from each person who comes in the door, and a computer keeps records of prior visits. Wagner said in court that according to records, the night of the crash was the first time Rodriguez’ identification had been scanned.
The records showed Abad’s identification had been scanned eight prior times, but explained that Abad was a regular customer and there were times when he was not required to going…