Driver Pleads Not Guilty To Aggravated Manslaughter Charge

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NEW BRUNSWICK—A Rahway man pleaded not guilty to an aggravated manslaughter charge connected to an alleged street racing crash in Woodbridge that fatally injured an Edison man last March.

Clifford Cooley, 27, appeared before Superior Court Judge Dennis Nieves on Monday. He is also charged with leaving the scene of a fatal motor-vehicle accident and causing death while operating with a suspended license.

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Nicholas Phan-Tran, 21, died Friday, Aug. 21, as a result of injuries suffered in the crash, officials said.

According to authorities, Cooley, Brandon Bullock, 25, and David Colvin, 20, were riding in a 2006 Toyota Scion racing a Honda Civic on Route 1 at speeds well over the 50 mph limit at 9 p.m. on March 23. The Scion approached the intersection and hit a 1993 Toyota Corolla, which was turning right onto Avenel Street, officials said.

The Scion then rear-ended a 2004 Dodge Stratus in the center northbound lane of Route 1, sending it into and over the center concrete median, authorities said. The Dodge landed on the roof of a 1998 Toyota Corolla, driven by Nicholas Phan-Tran, officials said. The Scion hit the concrete median and rolled on its roof and Cooley, Bullock and Colvin allegedly fled the car, authorities said.

Police apprehended Cooley and Bullock at the intersection of Avenel and Madison streets shortly after the crash. Phan-Tran, 21, was transported by helicopter to University Hospital in Newark. He never regained consciousness, authorities said.

A blood alcohol test done on Cooley revealed he was driving under the influence, authorities said.


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