EASTON, CT — Evidence suggests a former Easton firefighter accused in the Fairfield hit-and-run that killed a woman on the Fourth of July was drinking at the time of the crash, attorneys agreed at the defendant's first court appearance.
Declan P. Kot's arraignment Wednesday was held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. His lawyer, John Gulash, said Kot intends to plead not guilty and seek a jury trial.
"He has no record whatsoever," Gulash said in an audio recording of the hearing provided by state officials.
Kot, 22, is accused of fatally striking 32-year-old Marileidy Morel Araujo of Matamoras, Pennsylvania, with the side mirror of his white Dodge Ram pickup and fleeing the 2000 block of Redding Road. Araujo was visiting family in Fairfield for the holiday and had taken her dog for a walk at the time of the crash. Police said they stopped Kot while he was driving the suspect vehicle three days later and arrested him the following evening.
The defense and prosecution concurred that there is evidence Kot was drinking the day of the collision. Three hours before the crash, Kot went to a liquor store, according to prosecutor Cornelius Kelly, who said that before hitting Araujo, Kot was driving over the yellow line.
"Part of the investigation reveals that there had been some drinking that day," Gulash said.
Also Wednesday, Judge Kevin Doyle denied without prejudice a request that Kot be allowed to drive. As a condition of his release on $150,000 bond, Kot is prohibited from operating a vehicle.
Kot turned himself in as soon as his arrest warrant was signed, Gulash said, suggesting that Kot be cleared to drive a car with an ignition locking device.
"He is self-employed in a business that does require him to drive," Gulash said.
While Araujo's family was unable to attend Wednesday's hearing, Kelly said they would object to any change to the conditions of Kot's bond and "are very interested in the prosecution of this case."
Kot is charged with misconduct with a motor vehicle, a Class D felony, as well as evading responsibility in operating a vehicle resulting in death, evidence tampering, failure to drive in the proper lane, driving without fenders, driving with tinted windows without a tinting sticker and driving with a tinted windshield, police said.
If convicted of the evading charge, Kot could face up to 20 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. The misconduct charge could result in as many as five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Gulash said after Wednesday's hearing that Kot is no longer working as a volunteer firefighter, but he declined to comment further on the case. Kot's next court appearance is set for July 30.