After deliberating less than two hours Wednesday, jurors found former Windsor Locks Police Sgt. Robert Koistinen of interfering with the investigation of a fatal October 2010 accident involving his son Michael.
Robert Koistinen hugged members of his family in the hallway after the verdict was announced in Hartford Superior Court. Koistinen did not comment as he left the courthouse.
His attorney Eliot Spector said the family was gratified by the verdict. He said the reality of the case is really about media pressure. Robert Koistinen was found guilty in the media before he was arrested, Spector said.
“Public officials were influenced by it and made bad decisions,” Spector said.
Because of undue influence, Robert Koistinen was made a “scapegoat” in the case, he added.
“I never really thought we could lose this trial,” Spector said. “I couldn’t understand why he was being prosecuted from the get go.”
Robert Koistinen, 55, was accused of interfering with the investigation of the accident in which his son, Michael, an off-duty Windsor Locks police officer at the time, was convicted of striking 15-year-old Henry Dang with his car as the teen rode his bicycle at the intersection of Spring and West streets on Oct. 29, 2010.
He was found not guilty of third-degree hindering prosecution. The evidence portion of the trial occurred over five days last week.
Michael Koistinen pleaded no contest to second-degree manslaughter and tampering with physical evidence on June 12. He was sentenced on August 27 to five years and four months in prison.
Dang’s brother and sister, and family friends left the courthouse Wednesday without making comment.
Juror Nancy Senatro said outside the courthouse the jury felt there was nothing there to convict Koistinen.
“He was innocent,” Senatro said. “There was not any substantial evidence to convict this man.”
At one point during their deliberations, the jury asked to rehear testimony from a couple who were first to Michael Koistinen’s car that night and Robert Koistinen’s testimony about speaking to them.
During closing arguments Wednesday, prosecutor John Fahey said Koistinen wore two hats the night of the accident and made decisions that helped his son Michael. Fahey said a parent would not be able to send possible witnesses through the crime scene. Parents could not take their son away in a car like Robert Koistinen did.
The state attempted to make a case that Koistinen had kept investigators from talking to his son after the accident, and had not passed along information about possible witnesses.
Koistinen said he recused himself from the case as soon as he knew his son was involved.
Spector argued during his closing statement that the evidence presented during the trial showed the opposite of what the state claimed. The state presented evidence of what Michael Koistinen did, he maintained.
"This is case is not about Michael Koistinen, it is about Robert Koistinen," Spector said.
In January, Robert Koistinen was fired by the Windsor Locks Police Commission. Koistinen has filed a grievance seeking reinstatement to that job, officials said.
Spector said Koistinen will get his job back and his life back in order.
Police Commission Chairman Kevin Brace said Wednesday the commission will consult with its labor attorney Kevin Dineen about what will happen. He said the commission will follow the process and see what happens.
The Dang family sued and reached a settlement with the Koistinen family and the former owners of the Suffield Tavern, where Michael Koistinen was seen drinking.