John Kaley appears in court Wednesday in Mineola. Prosecutors say...

John Kaley appears in court Wednesday in Mineola. Prosecutors say Kaley fell asleep at the wheel Feb. 5, veering off the expressway and killing Officer Michael J. Califano, who was making a routine traffic stop in Old Westbury. (March 2, 2011) Credit: Howard Schnapp

The truck driver accused of veering off the Long Island Expressway and fatally hitting a Nassau police officer last month had no drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of the crash, his lawyer said in court Wednesday.

John Kaley, 25, of New Britain, Conn., came to court in a suit, with his fiancee and his mother. He is free on $90,000 bail after pleading not guilty to criminally negligent homicide.

Prosecutors say Kaley fell asleep at the wheel Feb. 5, veering off the expressway and killing Officer Michael J. Califano, 44, of Wantagh, a married father of three who was making a routine traffic stop at exit 39N in Old Westbury. They said Kaley told police he was "pushing it" to return to Connecticut and several witnesses saw him weaving between lanes and then accelerate before hitting Califano's car.

A person is guilty of criminal negligent homicide when they fail to perceive the risk that someone will die as a result of their actions and that failure is a "gross deviation" from what a "reasonable person" would observe.

If convicted, Kaley could face up to four years in prison.

Califano's widow, Jackie Califano, and his brother, Charlie Califano, attended the brief court appearance in Mineola, but declined to comment.

Charlie Califano wore a T-shirt showing a picture of his brother's face, with the words "End of Watch 2-5-11" on the back. Kaley did not comment, but his mother, Jackie Kaley, 51, of Wethersfield, Conn., said, "My son John and our entire family are absolutely heartbroken for the Califanos over this tragic accident, and they remain in our thoughts and prayers."

In court, Kaley's lawyer, William Petrillo of Rockville Centre, said he is not aware of evidence that his client was on a cell phone or text messaging at the time of the crash. Outside court, Petrillo said, "as horrible as this accident was, it did not rise to the level of a crime."

But prosecutor Maureen McCormick said it's not relevant that Kaley was not drunk or drugged, since he has not been charged with driving under the influence of anything or using a cell phone.

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