A former Chicago police detective was sentenced to eight years in prison for a fiery drunken driving crash that killed two young men, leaving the victims’ families distraught that he won’t spend more time behind bars.
Joseph Frugoli’s blood-alcohol content was more than three times the legal limit when he slammed his SUV into a car that had stalled on an expressway entrance ramp in 2009. The collision caused the other car to burst into flames, and the two men inside burned to death before a passer-by could pull them out of the vehicle.
Frugoli was pulled from his vehicle and authorities said he tried to flee the scene on foot but was quickly apprehended. He was convicted of aggravated driving under the influence and fleeing the scene of an accident, and the judge could have sentenced him to anything from probation to 31 years in prison.
“Eight years for the lives of two young boys?” said a sobbing Maria Velez, the mother of one of the victims, after Friday’s sentencing hearing. “It’s like a slap in the face, it’s an injustice, it’s like we don’t even matter.”
Her son, 21-year-old Fausto Manzera of Chicago, was killed along with 23-year-old Andrew Cazares of Summit.
Cazeres’ mother, Lorena Buenrostro, was also outraged at the length of the sentence.
“Nothing will bring my son back, but (Frugoli’s) going to get out and spend happy times with his daughter. Not me,” she said. “All I can do is take flowers for my son to the cemetery.”
Frugoli apologized to the men’s families during Friday’s hearing, saying his actions haunted him all the more because his police duties often involved notifying families about the death of loved ones.
“I never in my life thought that I would become the cause of that pain,” he said, his voice shaking.
Judge Charles Burns responded that he could not get away from the fact that Frugoli was so drunk at the time of the crash.
Prosecutors pointed to two earlier crashes caused by Frugoli in which authorities questioned whether his ability to drive might have been impaired, including one in which he slammed into a police squad car at 5 a.m. near his home and seriously injured a patrol officer. In both cases he was issued only tickets that were later dropped.