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Plea Deal for Impaired Driver Shocks Victims’ Families

In July of 2015, eight women were departing from a tour of a North Fork vineyard. At about 5 p.m. in Cutchogue, the women’s limousine executed a legal, but ill-advised U-turn on County Route 48. A pick-up truck driven by Steven Romeo T-boned the limo, killing three of the women nearly instantly. A fourth died at the hospital. Two others suffered critical injuries. Recently, the case reached an unsatisfactory conclusion for the four families of the victims.

Plea deal causes outrage

The truck driver had originally been charged with driving while intoxicated and driving while ability impaired by alcohol (DWAI) after the deaths of Brittney Schulman, Lauren Baruch, Stephanie Belli, and Amy Grabina, who were all in their early 20s. According to the prosecutors, Romeo’s blood alcohol content was 0.06 percent, measured about 90 minutes after the crash. The prosecutors did not feel there was sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction, and so a plea deal was arranged.

Romeo pleaded guilty to driving while ability impaired, which is a traffic infraction that resulted in a 90-day license suspension and an $885 fine. Audible gasps were heard from the families of the victims, who were present in the courtroom at the time.

However, the Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney John Scott Prudenti asserts that the responsibility for the crash rests with the limo driver, not with Romeo. “A sober driver would not have been able to react and prevent the crash based upon the limo driver’s actions that day,” said Prudenti. ““A professional driver had put them in harm’s way by carelessly and negligently making that ill-advised turn into oncoming traffic.”

Wrongful death lawsuits

Despite the dismay they experienced in the courtroom, the families of the victims do have legal recourse available to them. As they exited the courtroom, the families briefly mentioned their plans to sue both Romeo and the limo driver, Carlos Pino. Although U-turns are legal in that particular area, parties involved with the case have suggested that it was inappropriate for the driver of a limo to make such a maneuver because of the limited space. The Suffolk County District Attorney, Thomas Spota, gave this statement regarding Pino: “He failed to take any precaution or any action to make sure he could safely enter the westbound lanes. He continued to attempt to make his turn without stopping, without looking.”

The limo driver was later indicted by a grand jury on four counts of criminally negligent homicide. However, in October 2016, a judge dismissed all of the charges on the basis of improper grand jury testimony.

Because criminal cases and civil lawsuits proceed entirely separately from each other, filing a wrongful death lawsuit is still an option, even if a defendant does not face criminal charges or is found not guilty.

Effective legal advocates in New York

Car crashes are rarely as straightforward as they might appear at first. At Edelman, Krasin & Jaye, our clients can take advantage of our substantial resources and personalized, courteous attention. Our litigators have the experience necessary to effectively handle drunk driving cases, limo crashes, and wrongful death cases.

Our Long Island car accident lawyers are dedicated to securing maximum compensation for our clients, and we never charge a fee unless we win. You can request a free case review by calling today.

Additional “Long Island limo crash” resources

  1. CBS New York, Victims’ Families Call Plea Deal For Driver In Deadly Long Island Limo Crash A Disgrace, http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2017/04/26/long-island-limo-crash-guilty-plea/
  2. The New York Times, Driver Charged in Fatal Limousine Crash on Long Island Left Scene, Prosecutor Says, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/21/nyregion/driver-charged-in-fatal-long-island-crash-left-scene-prosecutor-says.html?_r=0
  3. CBS New York, Limo Driver Indicted In Fatal Long Island Crash, http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2016/03/16/long-island-limo-crash-indictment/