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Hillsdale Driver Admits Cocaine Use In Crash That Took Nurse's Arm

Michael Baba
Michael Baba Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia
Niall O'Hagen's Ford Explorer after the July 2013 crash in Westwood.
Niall O'Hagen's Ford Explorer after the July 2013 crash in Westwood. Photo Credit: CLIFFVIEW PILOT

HILLSDALE, N.J. -- A Hillsdale man admitted through sobs Tuesday that he was high on cocaine when he caused an accident in Westwood that took the left hand and forearm of a Teaneck hospital nurse.

Knowing that a judge in Hackensack was to rule whether he was fit to stand trial, Michael Baba took a plea deal from prosecutors.

Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Martin Delaney said that he will ask for three years in state prison, while the defense can argue for no time at all.

Superior Court Judge James J. Guida said that he was considering immediate parole for the wheelchair-bound Baba, who first came to court in 2013 and then cited medical problems for not returning.

Baba has COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and leukocytopenia, a low white-cell condition that makes him susceptible to infections, his doctor previously testified.

His Toyota Camry rammed a Ford Explorer driven by Niall O'Hagen, a surgical nurse at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, after Baba ran a red light at the corner of Washington and Lafayette Avenues in July 2013.

The Explorer flipped onto its roof before coming to rest on a lawn on the intersection’s northwest corner.

O’Hagen and his family attended every court hearing. He has been through extensive rehabilitation and fitted with a prosthetic hand and arm, and had to change the focus of his nursing career from patient care to administration, they said.

“I’m guilty, sir, and I’m sorry,” Baba told the judge on Tuesday while pleading guilty to assault by auto and possession of cocaine.

Guida asked Baba if he caused the accident because he was under the influence of cocaine.

"Absolutely," he responded. "There is no doubt.”

The judge scheduled a March 11 sentencing.

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