Howell man charged in crash that killed police officer


Michael Cassella, 30, has been charged with aggravated manslaughter and vehicular homicide in the October 2011 death of Officer Joseph Wargo, 38.

Cassella’s car was allegedly speeding along Route 80 when it crossed the median and struck Wargo’s vehicle.

Cassella allegedly told state troopers he was “a little tipsy” and had used heroin. An empty methadone bottle was found on the center console of his car, authorities have said.

Cassella has been free on $500,000 cash bail since January.

But he was charged with new counts of drug possession and possession of drug paraphernalia last Sunday after he called 911 to report a drug overdose at his home in Howell.

Cassella allegedly told Howell police he had used his car to pick up a friend — even though his driver’s license had been voluntarily surrendered the day before. The friend overdosed at Cassella’s Monmouth County home after the two allegedly injected heroin, according to police reports. The friend survived.

After hearing of the incident, Morris County Prosecutor Robert Bianchi, in a motion filed Thursday, sought to revoke bail.

“We made an emergent application, obviously, because the hair on our necks stood up,” Bianchi told Superior Court Judge Robert Gilson in Morristown. “Right now, the point is who are we protecting? Right now it should be everyone that’s on a roadway in New Jersey.”

But Gilson said he wanted to give defense attorneys time to make their case on the newest charges. The new conditions will do that, he said.

“The goal here is to ensure Mr. Cassella stays sober, and stays off the roads of New Jersey,” Gilson said.

The prosecutor’s office, in conjunction with Monmouth County authorities, is also attempting to set up a monitoring system with a GPS “bracelet” to enforce Cassella’s house arrest. But that may take several days, a probation officer told the judge. –