GLOUCESTER — In the early morning hours of Oct. 3, 2015, Gloucester police Officer Kevin Muise was responding to a call when, he said, "my life was changed forever because of the irresponsible and selfish actions" of a man named Joseph Loiacano.
Loiacano, after a night of bar-hopping along Rogers Street, had a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit when he sped down Main Street, a prosecutor said.
His Chevrolet Equinox SUV, moving at twice the legal speed limit, veered across the road just as Muise, driving a police cruiser, was coming the opposite direction.
"There was nothing I could do," Muise said during a victim-impact statement Wednesday in Salem Superior Court.
Nineteen months to the day since the crash that left him with a broken neck, concussion, torn rotator cuff, bulging disks and alternating pain and numbness in his arm, leg and back, Muise is still struggling to recover enough from his injuries to allow him to return to his job patrolling the streets of Gloucester.
Moments earlier, before Muise addressed the judge, Loiacano, 41, of Farrington Avenue in Gloucester, had pleaded guilty to charges of drunken driving causing serious bodily injury, second offense drunken driving and assault and battery during a hearing in Salem Superior Court.
Judge Thomas Drechsler said he will sentence Loiacano Monday to 2 1/2 years in jail, with 13 months to be served and the balance suspended for three years, during which time Loiacano will be on probation.
"I am troubled by the whole incident," Drechsler said. "When I see cases like this, I am troubled by how needless it is."
That was an argument made by prosecutor Christina Ronan.
"What's significant is in today's world of Uber and Lyft ... these cases shouldn't happen anymore," said the prosecutor, who was seeking at least two years in custody for Loiacano.
Ronan described how Loiacano, who was found with receipts from two other bars he'd visited that night, Dog Bar and Latitude 43, walked out of the House of Mitch with an open beer as closing time approached.
A bouncer tried to stop him, and a struggle ensued. Loiacano punched the bouncer and then hopped in his SUV, speeding away.
He was going 60 miles an hour down Main Street, Ronan said, when he crossed the center of the road and crashed head-on into Muise's cruiser. Muise had to be extricated from the wreckage.
Loiacano, meanwhile, protested, "What did I do?" and walked off to urinate in some nearby bushes while police were trying to help Muise.
Both men were taken to the hospital. But the officer was more seriously injured. Loiacano, meanwhile, had a blood alcohol level of 0.19, a blood test showed.
Muise told Drechsler that he was out of work for months, recovering.
He wore a hard neck collar and was told he couldn't lift anything, even his newborn daughter — which forced his wife to take more time off from work after her maternity leave ran out. A concussion left him with dizzy spells. He spent his days in bed or on the couch.
Then, after returning to work last spring, he began experiencing more pain. Last fall, he underwent surgery to repair a tear to his rotator cuff and remains off the job, again with limitations on his movement.
He suffered hours of numbness from a simple, short walk from his car to the TD Garden, where he'd taken his family to see a show recently.
"Before this crash, I was an active person," said Muise, his voice breaking. "I love being a police officer and I love being in a position to impact people's lives. I am hoping my career has not been taken away permanently."
And just three months ago, he pulled another shard of glass from his scalp, where it had been lodged since the crash.
"I often think of what would have happened if the defendant had not crashed into my reinforced vehicle and instead some ordinary vehicle," said Muise during his impact statement.
Loiacano's attorney, Elliot Weinstein, was seeking no more than six months in custody for his client.
The defense lawyer, who had previously complained to the judge last year about "onerous" conditions of release, including home confinement, urged Drechsler to take that time Loiacano was not allowed to leave his home into consideration when coming up with a sentence.
And Weinstein also asked the judge not to impose the probation conditions being requested by Ronan, including an alcohol evaluation and treatment, calling them "an unnecessary burden on his future."
As for the blow to the bouncer? Weinstein told the judge that his client "was so drunk that punch had no content to it," and suggested that it only "technically" qualifies as an assault and battery.
"This is a man who has done a lot of good for people," said Weinstein.
Loiacano then pulled out a folded piece of paper and asked to address the officer, seated in the gallery behind him.
He said he's wanted to apologize but that a no-contact order by the court prevented it.
"It's been a long year and seven months," he said. "I would rather have driven my car into a telephone pole and killed myself rather than injure you," he read.
"I'm just terribly sorry for the pain I've caused everybody," said Loiacano.
Loiacano, who was convicted of drunken driving in 2002 in Long Beach, California, and had a 2012 drunken driving charge in Tampa, Florida, reduced to reckless driving, told the court he's given up alcohol.
He blames alcohol for the crash. "That was the alcohol talking, not me," he said. "I promise you that."
"I pray someday you'll forgive me, but I understand if you don't."
After his release, Loiacano will be required to attend a 14-day alcohol treatment program for second-time drunken drivers.
His driver's license will also be suspended for two years.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis.