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Drunk Driver Who Nearly Killed Cop Sentenced To Probation Only After Officer Agrees

Northampton, MA – A woman who nearly killed a Northampton police officer in a drunk-driving crash in January has been sentenced to probation.

Maleaha Lee Aquadro, 26, was traveling more than twice the speed limit on Route 66 when she drunkenly slammed into Northampton Police Department (NPD) Officer Matthew Knowlton’s patrol car just before midnight on Jan. 30, WGGB reported.

Prosecutors said Aquadro was traveling 76 miles per hour in the 35-mile-per-hour zone that night, according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Officer Knowlton said he saw the oncoming car cross over the double yellow lines and into his lane just before the impact, WWLP reported.

Despite suffering a broken leg in the collision, Officer Knowlton freed himself by cutting his seatbelt and climbing out the driver’s side window of his demolished patrol car.

Prosecutors said he then made his way to Aquadro’s vehicle and helped rescue her, WGGB reported.

Officer Knowlton later said he was afraid her vehicle might catch on fire due to the wreck.

“He risked his own life to save the life of Miss Aquadro,” Northwestern Assistant District Attorney Andrew Covington told the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Aquadro, who suffered a head injury in the crash, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.19, according to investigators.

Officer Knowlton still hasn’t been medically cleared to return to work, but he is hoping to be back in uniform in August, WWLP reported.

“Knowlton has been out of work since the collision, undergone multiple surgeries, engaged in physical therapy and endured what he told the court was the worst pain of his life,” Northwestern District Attorney’s Office (NWDA) spokesperson Laurie Loisel told WGGB. “He is expected to return to duty next month.”

Aquadro could have faced felony charges for nearly killing the officer, but Covington said his office opted to forgo that route because Aquadro “has been remorseful and immediately sought to take responsibility for her actions,” WGGB reported.

The NWDA and Aquadro struck a plea deal requiring her to plead guilty to charges of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol and reckless operation of a motor vehicle.

Charges of seatbelt violation, marked lane violation, speeding, and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon were dismissed as part of the agreement, WGGB reported.

The court sentenced Aquadro to two years of probation on Friday, according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

In addition to losing her driver’s license for one year, she must also complete 100 hours of community service and a driver alcohol education program.

Officer Knowlton and the NPD fully supported the plea agreement, according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

“It’s a miracle we’re both standing here in court,” Officer Knowlton said during the sentencing hearing, according to WGGB. “I want to make sure it gives Miss Aquadro a chance to learn from this and understand it’s an accident, but it could have ended my life or both of our lives. I forgive Miss Aquadro and I just want to move on from this and I wish the same for her as well.”

The judge praised the officer after he addressed the court.

“You are to be commended on your behavior that night and I’m very impressed by your compassion,” the judge told him, according to WWLP.

Aquadro sent a letter of apology to Officer Knowlton and read the letter to the judge during her sentencing hearing.

She faces up to two-and-one-half years in the House of Correction if she violates the term of her probation sentence, WWLP reported.

“This is not a slap on the wrist,” Covington insisted, according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette. “We’re hoping that Ms. Aquadro doesn’t squander this opportunity.”

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

View all articles
Written by Holly Matkin

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