Waterford man pleads guilty in Connecticut College hit-and-run death case

A 26-year-old Waterford man pleaded guilty to reduced charges Monday in New London Superior Court in connection with the Dec. 15, 2015, hit-and-run death of Connecticut College student Ahmad Anique Ashraf.

James "Jamie" M. Sposito will be sentenced July 20 to 4 1/2 years in prison, followed by five years of probation, for misconduct with a motor vehicle and tampering with a witness, which are both felony offenses, and evading responsibility, which is a unclassified crime.

Sposito, who was also charged initially with second-degree manslaughter, accepted a plea offer worked out after several months of pretrial negotiations by his attorney, Michael L. Chambers Jr., and prosecutor Raphael Bustamante.

"It's unfortunate," Chambers said when reached by phone after Sposito's court appearance. "Two families' lives have changed drastically because of this incident."

Bustamante declined to comment.

According to court documents and testimony, Ashraf, 20, of Lahore, Pakistan, a member of the Class of 2017, was struck and killed while walking to his dormitory on the main campus from a friend's apartment on Winchester Road, located on the northbound side of Route 32 across from the main gate of the campus. Sposito did not stop after striking Ashraf and later told police he thought he had struck a deer.

A passer-by found his body in the breakdown lane on the northbound side of Route 32 near the college entrance. New London police found the lower grille of a Chrysler 200 sedan at the scene of the crash, and later located a matching vehicle parked in front of Sposito's house, less than 3 miles away from the accident, according to the arrest warrant.

Police charged Sposito in 2016 with second-degree manslaughter, misconduct with a motor vehicle, tampering with a witness, tampering with physical evidence and evading responsibility. He has been free on a $150,000 surety bond while his case was pending.

Though police were able to establish that Sposito had been drinking at several area bars the night of the accident, they were unable to determine his blood alcohol content because they did not identify him as a suspect until several hours after the incident.

In addition to the criminal charges, Sposito has been sued civilly by Ashraf's estate. On behalf of the estate, Pawcatuck attorney James Hall filed a wrongful death lawsuit in October 2016 asserting that Sposito's negligent and reckless actions caused Ashraf's death. The lawsuit also names Enterprise Rental company and Chrysler, alleging that Sposito had rented the Chrysler 200 he was driving as an employee of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. FCA, as it is known, asserts in an answer to the complaint that Sposito was not an employee of the company at the time.

The estate also has brought dram shop claims against Hot Rod Cafe and Hanafin's Pub, claiming the two downtown New London bars overserved Sposito that night. The dram shop law holds liable anyone who sells alcoholic drinks or serves liquor to a drinker who obviously is intoxicated and who goes on to injure someone or cause damage.
In an answer to the complaint, attorneys for Hot Rod deny that Sposito consumed large quantities of alcohol at that bar that night. Hanafin's, which has since closed, has not filed an attorney's appearance or responded to the lawsuit.

k.florin@theday.com

 

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