Police scandal leads to reduced charges

April 25, 2008 12:16:53 PM PDT
A Madison man avoided prison in a drunken driving death because a town police officer who investigated the case was recently fired in a scandal involving prostitutes. Neal Gobrogge, 23, hosted a party last year after which Kirsten Meyer, 19, was killed in a crash that allegedly involved drunken driving.

Gobrogge faced three years in prison if he had been convicted of the original charges of delivery of alcohol to a minor, permitting a minor to possess alcohol in a dwelling and second-degree reckless endangerment.

The state offered him a lesser charges because former Madison police Officer Matthew Sterling, who arrested Gobrogge, was fired amid scandal in January.

Gobrogge pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree reckless endangerment Thursday in Superior Court in New Haven.

Gobrogge's attorney, William Gerace, argued that Sterling misrepresented facts in the arrest warrant. Gerace said that while alcohol was consumed at the party, Gobrogge did not supply it to minors.

Assistant State's Attorney Brian Leslie said although he doesn't think Sterling misrepresented the facts, a successful trial was unlikely since Sterling was terminated for conduct unbecoming a police officer.

The Madison Police Commission in January ruled Sterling withheld knowledge that officers were meeting with prostitutes on duty and had frequented a known house of prostitution.

Gobrogge received three years probation, 300 hours of community service and will make a charitable contribution to the organ donation organization Donate Life.

In August, Meyer was riding in a car driven by Dennis E. Knapp, 19, of Clinton, who has pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle and operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The crash happened after Knapp and Meyer left the party hosted by Gobrogge.