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Ex-officer convicted in New Hampshire hit and run is back behind bars per judge's order

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CONCORD, New Hampshire — A former New Hampshire police officer who was released from jail after serving a fraction of his one-year sentence for injuring two teens in a hit-and-run last year was back behind bars Friday.

The lawyer for former veteran Manchester police officer Steven Coco said his client returned to the Hillsborough County House of Corrections after five weeks of freedom.

Judge Gillian Abramson had ruled Thursday that his release by the jail's superintendent after serving only 72 days was inappropriate. A new law gives county jail superintendents the authority to release convicts to work or rehabilitation programs after they serve 14 days of their sentences, but a prosecutor objected to Coco's release, prompting the order to bring him back to custody.

Abramson said Coco needed punishment, not rehabilitation.

Abramson noted that Coco, who was off duty, had been drinking in March 2013 before his SUV struck Dean Drukker, 18, and Noah Hickman, 17, from behind as they walked toward Hickman's Bedford home. Coco told investigators he had not left home that night, but police said his car had fresh damage to its front end and a broken headlight.

He was fired days later for violating department procedures. He had been a Manchester police officer for 17 years and was a detective at the time of the accident.

Drukker suffered a concussion with bleeding on the brain, cuts and bruises and a separated shoulder. Hickman suffered a broken right elbow, cuts and bruises and injuries to his back. Both have recovered.

Coco's lawyer, Mark Howard, said Friday he has filed a motion asking that Coco be released pending his appeal to the state Supreme Court. If Abramson denies that motion, Howard said he will make the same request to the Supreme Court.

Howard said Coco found it difficult to leave his family once again.

"He understands the court's ruling and that he has to follow the orders of both the court and the superintendent," Howard said.

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