Hartford Courant
Psychiatrist Wants Accelerated Rehabilitation In Deadly Hit-And-Run
By Dave Altimari
July 12, 2017

Psychiatrist Juan Sosa

Psychiatrist Juan Sosa

A Middletown psychiatrist who drove a car that struck and killed a 76-year-old woman crossing the Silas Deane Highway in Wethersfield in 2016 and then left the scene says he should be granted accelerated rehabilitation because police determined the woman caused the accident.

Juan Sosa, 80, appeared in Superior Court in New Britain last week where his attorney, Hubert Santos, told Judge Joan Alexander if “there was ever anyone who should be eligible for AR, it is Dr. Sosa.”

Sosa is charged with evading responsibility. State law prohibits a judge from granting the pretrial diversionary program, that could lead to charges being dropped, to anyone charged with committing a crime or motor vehicle violation that caused a death.

At the hearing, a prosecutor argued against AR and took the unusual stance of publicly criticizing the police investigation, which concluded that the accident in April of 2016 was caused by the woman, Janina Fitzryk.

“I don’t like to do this your honor but I wasn’t happy with the police investigation here,” Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Rose Palmese said.

Palmese went on to say Sosa’s version of events following the accident didn’t add up and he shouldn’t be allowed to get AR based on the law. If Sosa were to get AR, it would wipe the criminal charges off his record in 13 months if he followed court orders and wasn’t arrested during that time.

But Santos argued the Wethersfield police department’s ultimate determination that the accident was caused by “pedestrian error” and not by Sosa means he is technically eligible for AR because even though Fitzryk died from injuries suffered during the accident it wasn’t Sosa’s fault.

Santos then listed some of the reasons Sosa should be eligible for the program. He has no criminal record, has long-standing ties in the community and is not a threat to flee.

Two of Fitzryk’s sons appeared in Superior Court last week to oppose Sosa’s application. They stood beside their attorney, Patricia O’Neill, but didn’t speak during the hearing.

O’Neill talked about how the victim was walking home after visiting her granddaughter to give her money for a class trip. She said that Fitzryk rode the school bus almost every day with her granddaughter and was devoted to her family.

O’Neill said the family couldn’t understand why Sosa hadn’t stopped his car.

“This man is a doctor; if he had stopped and tried to help her who knows if he could have saved her,” O’Neill said. “The EMTs were on the scene quickly but she was alive when he left her there.”

Alexander continued the hearing to Aug. 21 to give Santos time to respond to a legal memorandum submitted by prosecutors opposing AR. If she declines to give Sosa AR then his case would go into the regular trial list.

Sosa told police he knew he had hit something but didn’t know what it was and didn’t think it was a person or an animal. Sosa told police he considered stopping but didn’t because he was almost out of gas so he drove to a nearby Food Bag to fill his tank. Sosa was arrested several days later.

After filling up at the Food Bag, Sosa said, he inspected the front of his car and saw more damage than he expected, court papers say. He thought about going back to where he had hit something but decided it was unsafe to drive with a broken headlight and went to his apartment in Wethersfield.

Sosa told investigators that he then walked about 2.8 miles back to the Silas Deane Highway, court papers say. He said he saw police but thought they were investigating a robbery at the Red Lobster restaurant down the road and walked back home, according to the affidavit.

Investigators were unable to confirm Sosa’s account of returning to the accident scene, the affidavit said.

Fitzryk suffered serious injuries to her head and extremities and was transported to Hartford Hospital, where she died that night, the affidavit says.

Police got a break in the case when Wethersfield fire Capt. James Ritter heard a description of the suspect vehicle on his radio and spotted a car answering that description at the Food Bag, the affidavit says. By the time he turned around to get a better look, the car had left, the affidavit says.

Ritter contacted police, who identified Sosa through the credit card he had used to pay for gasoline. The day after the accident, investigators went to Sosa’s office in Middletown, the mailing address on his registration, where they found his car with a damaged front headlight assembly, the affidavit says.

O’Neill said the fact that Sosa never turned himself in also should play into whether he gets special treatment.

Juan Sosa

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