Six Years for Lawyer Who Misled Police in Hit-and-Run of Teen
Koufos now in state prison
One year ago, a walk along Route 35 for ice cream changed the life of Kevin O'Brien.
O'Brien, 17, was on the Route 35 northbound shoulder near Silver Beach when a luxury car struck the teen and then fled miles north into Mantoloking June 17, 2011.
Craig Terlizzi, Brick, would come forward to say he was driving. But Brick attorney John G. Koufos, 35, was the man behind the wheel, and was indicted on charges of obscuring his role in the collision that injured the Pennsylvania teen.
Koufos is now in state prison, serving six years at Mid-State Correctional Facility in Wrightstown. He was sentenced May 11: three years for leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident with serious bodily injury, three years for hindering apprehension and one day for tampering with evidence.
Shock over the events came after authorities revealed Koufos had a coworker take the blame for the hit-and-run, accusing the up-and-coming lawyer of hindering apprehension.
“Our investigation now reveals Mr. Terlizzi’s statements in connection with that investigation were false, and made with the intent of shielding his employer, attorney John Koufos, from responsibility for the accident,” said Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford in a statement at the time. "Our complaint alleges he recklessly caused serious bodily injury to a 17-year-old minor, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.”
Witnesses reported a black Lexus speeding away from the 9:30 p.m. accident, its windshield severely smashed, police said at the time. A manhunt for the vehicle lasted through the evening, with Terlizzi's arrest coming around midnight.
A week later, county prosecutors would charge Koufos for the hit-and-run. For his role, Terlizzi, 40, was sentenced to a pre-trial intervention program, with such provisions as maintaining employment and avoiding arrest.
"Initially he was giving us a story we knew wasn’t true," said First Assistant Prosecutor Ronald F. DeLigny, of the investigation into Terlizzi. "Then he did come forward and acknowledge what did happen."
DeLigny said the case was straightforward, but still unfortunate.
"This was good police work, a straightforward case...there was tremendous cooperation between Toms River, Brick, Mantoloking police, the sheriff and prosecutors," DeLigny said.
"Anytime you have innocent people being hurt, it's tough," he added. "Our thoughts are with Kevin."
Kevin's father, Hugh O'Brien, said his family remains devastated but now has some sense of closure at the sentencing.
"We are so very distraught about the damage Mr. Koufos caused to our son," O'Brien said.
"Ocean County Law enforcement (police, detectives, prosecutor's office) did a magnificent job at ensuring justice was served fairly to all, even Mr. Koufos," O'Brien said.
Despite living a state away, O'Brien said his family was treated fairly.
"We the O'Brien family were very pleased with the way this case was handled by the legal system," O'Brien said. "I read every single comment that was posted on the prior articles and I can tell you with certainty that this case followed the letter of the law. My family and the defendant were treated fairly."
O'Brien said although the defendants — who worked in law — attempted to cover-up the incident, he felt the law was dealt fairly.
"Unlike many had speculated that judges and lawyers stick together and would sweep this under the carpet, other than what Mr. Koufos attempted himself, no coverup or special treatment was ever attempted," O'Brien said.
Koufos' sentence would carry through Nov. 16, 2016. He is currently eligible for parole Dec. 3, 2013.