Nineteen months after he rammed a parked police car, causing it to explode in flames, killing a woman who was trapped in the back seat, Robert Gallivan was arraigned on a manslaughter charge Thursday.
Defense attorney Michael Bloom entered a "not guilty" plea on Gallivan's behalf and Pima County Hearing Officer Roger Duncan agreed to allow Gallivan to remain free on his own recognizance.
Arizona Department of Public Safety officers pulled Faith Mascolino, 45, over in the early hours of June 3, 2009, on Interstate 10 near West Orange Grove Road. After conducting a sobriety test, they arrested her on suspicion of driving under the influence and placed her in the back of one of the officers' cruisers.
One of the officers was on the phone with Mascolino's daughter when the officers spotted a Nissan Altima speeding toward them, according to DPS records.
The officers jumped over the guardrail and the Nissan crashed into the cruiser, which exploded and burned.
Mascolino died and Gallivan suffered a broken ankle and a ruptured bowel. At one point he was put into a drug-induced coma.
Tests indicated Gallivan was not under the influence of illicit drugs or alcohol, but he did have an antipsychotic medication in his system.
The DPS asked the Pima County Attorney's Office to seek an indictment for second-degree murder after an accident reconstruction expert estimated Gallivan was traveling between 112 and 117 miles an hour at the time of the crash.
On Thursday, defense attorney Bloom said Gallivan's speed will be disputed at his trial.
"I think even the state will agree the initial speed estimate was wildly high," Bloom said.
Bloom said he will prove the incident was "just a tragic accident."
David Berkman, Pima County's chief criminal deputy attorney, said experts now believe Gallivan was going at least 91 miles an hour.
"How high their estimate goes, I don't know," Berkman said.
Asked why it took nearly 19 months to seek an indictment, Berkman said additional work had to be performed, but he would not comment further, citing ethical rules.
In an interview last June, Deputy Pima County Attorney Bruce Chalk spoke in general terms about fiery crashes.
At that time, he said fiery crashes can be difficult to investigate because fires consume evidence and fire-suppression efforts can wash away evidence.
In addition to the manslaughter charge, Gallivan is facing two counts of endangerment and one count of criminal damage.
Mascolino's family filed a lawsuit against Gallivan and the state of Arizona after they failed to respond to an $8 million claim.
The family's civil attorneys, JoJene Mills and Ronald Mercaldo, noted in their claim letter that DPS officers are taught how to avoid such collisions.
Mercaldo said he was somewhat surprised to see an indictment after all of this time.
Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or email@example.com