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Man gets jail in DUI that injured Philadelphia officers

Although he nearly killed two police officers while he was driving drunk and on drugs, John Cusick told the judge, “I don’t feel I need a lot of jail time. I feel I’m more in need of rehab.”

Cusick wound up getting both – six to 12 years in prison, with drug treatment and anger-management counseling – for pleading guilty to driving under the influence and plowing his SUV into a stopped police car on June 28, 2009, critically injuring the officers.

In sentencing him Tuesday, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Genece E. Brinkley cited the long, painful recoveries of Officers Richard Hayes and George Higginson.

“This was a horrendous situation,” she said.

Cusick, 21, blond and baby-faced, begged the judge for a last Thanksgiving at home with his mother, Tammy Oslowski, in the city’s Rhawnhurst section.

“I’m a momma’s boy,” he said as she wept in the gallery behind him. “I love my mother to death.”

“Unfortunately, that’s not possible,” the judge replied, and ordered a sheriff’s deputy to take Cusick into custody.

“I love you, I love you,” he called to his family as he was escorted out.

Cusick pleaded guilty in September to aggravated assault, driving under the influence, and related charges in the early-morning crash. Witnesses told police his SUV roared down Aramingo Avenue in Frankford at up to 75 m.p.h. and went straight into the rear of the patrol car, which was involved in a stop of another drunken driver.

Cusick admitted to being under the influence of two drugs and alcohol and talking to a girlfriend in the car when the crash occurred. Neither he nor the woman was hurt.

Assistant District Attorney Noel DeSantis said Higginson was between the patrol car and the stopped vehicle when the crash occurred; his face struck the trunk, causing multiple fractures.

Hayes was at the side of the stopped vehicle. The impact sent him airborne, and he landed inside, his head lodged in the dashboard.

Hayes spent six months in a medicated coma, then had to relearn how to walk, talk and perform other basic functions.

Both officers have returned to active duty: Hayes, 29, in major crimes, and Higginson, 26, in the traffic division.

Both said they were satisfied with the judge’s decision.

“He got his years sentence,” said Higginson. “I got a life sentence.”

Hayes said his brain injuries left him without feeling on one side of his face or any sense of smell or taste. “I had to do a lot of work to get back where I was,” he added.

Defense attorney William Ciancaglini called Cusick “basically a good kid with a ton of problems. Nothing like this will ever happen again. He’s not a career criminal.”

DeSantis, however, said Cusick’s family enabled and abetted his drug use, beginning with marijuana at age 11.

“I believe this defendant is remorseful because he’s going to prison,” DeSantis said. “He used drugs the day before he pleaded guilty.”


Contact staff writer Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985 or jslobodzian@phillynews.com.

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