Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office

                                 25 Kirkpatrick Street, 3rd Floor, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 08901 (732) 745-3300


                                *News Release*          Date: August 24, 2009





Rahway man charged with auto fatality after victim dies



Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce J. Kaplan and Woodbridge Police Chief William Trenery announced that a charge of aggravated assault filed against a Rahway man was raised today to a count of aggravated manslaughter after a motorist died from injuries he suffered in a multi-vehicle crash on Route 1 in March.


Clifford J. Cooley, (DOB 1/24/82) also was charged with a second degree count of leaving the scene of a fatal collision, and was charged with a third degree count of driving while his license was suspended.


The charges were filed following the death Friday, August, 21, 2009, of  Nicholas Phan-Tran, 21, of Edison.


Cooley previously had been charged with aggravated assault for injuring Mr. Phan-Tran, and was charged with leaving the scene of a motor vehicle crash involving serious injury. Cooley also had been charged with fourth degree count of driving while suspended.


Superior Court Judge Joseph Rea set bail at $700,000 for Cooley, who remains in custody at the Middlesex County Adult Corrections Center. Cooley is scheduled to appear at the Middlesex County Courthouse in New Brunswick before Superior Court Judge Dennis Nieves on August 31, 2009, at 9 a.m. to face the new charges.


The charges against Cooley were upgraded after Mr. Phan-Tran died at JFK Medical Center in Edison. He had been undergoing treatment at a rehabilitation facility in Edison since being injured in the crash on March 23, 2009.


An autopsy performed by Dr. Frederick J. DiCarlo, a Middlesex County assistant medical examiner, determined Mr. Phan-Tran died from blunt trauma head and neck injuries that were suffered in the crash.


Mr. Phan-Tran was injured when the car he was driving was struck at 9:01 p.m. in the multi-car crash that was caused when Cooley, who was driving a Toyota Scion, engaged in a high-speed race with a Honda Civic in the northbound lanes of Route 1 in the Avenel section of Woodbridge.


Police later charged that Cooley was intoxicated and speeding.


As the vehicles approached the Avenel Street intersection, the Honda Civic passed two cars, but the defendants’ car struck both vehicles, a Dodge Stratus, which was in the center lane of Route 1, and another passenger vehicle, which was slowing down to make a right turn onto Avenel Street.


Police continue to search for the driver of the Honda Civic, a dark-colored vehicle, which fled the scene.


The impact of the crash caused by Cooley’s Toyota propelled the Dodge into the concrete median at the intersection. The Dodge landed on top of the Toyota Corolla that was being driven by Mr. Phan-Tran in a southbound lane of the highway.


The driver of the Dodge, a 22-year-old man from Avenel, sustained minor injuries and was treated at Raritan Bay Medical Center in Perth Amboy.


Two passengers in Cooley’s car, Brandon W. Bullock, 25, and David Colvin, 20, also of Rahway, also were charged. Bullock faces counts of hindering his own apprehension, obstruction of the administration of law, and four counts of endangering injured victims.


Colvin is charged with hindering his own apprehension and perjury and false swearing in front of a Middlesex County grand jury.


In addition, Cooley faces counts of assault by auto, hindering his own apprehension and obstruction.


The defendants were charged with hindering and obstruction after an investigation determined they ran from the scene of the crash.


Anyone with information is asked to call Patrolman Gennaro DeStefano of the Woodbridge Police Traffic Safety Unit at (732) 634-7700, or Sgt. John Dando of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office Fatal Crash Investigation Unit at (732) 745-3300.


As is the case with all defendants, the charges against Cooley, Bullock and Colvin are merely accusations and they are presumed innocent until proven guilty.