Bail lowered for man charged in fatal Cutchogue crash

John Scott Prudenti

Bail was lowered today for the man police said was driving drunk in a crash that killed four women on Saturday. He is due back in court in mid-September.

Peconic resident Steven Romeo, 55, has been at Eastern Long Island Hospital since Saturday. According to Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, he suffered a broken nose in the crash. He was arraigned at his bedside in the hospital on Sunday, where he pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor driving while intoxicated charge.

Bail was lowered from $1 million bond/$500,000 cash to $100,000 bond/$50,000 cash on Thursday afternoon at Southold Town Justice Court in front of Town Justice Rudolph Bruer.

According to Mr. Bruer, at Mr. Romeo’s arraignment on Sunday — which was closed off to the public — both sides agreed to again discuss the terms of the bail at Mr. Romeo’s next hearing. Assistant District Attorney John Scott Prudenti told Mr. Bruer that because of the expected long length of the investigation, the bail should be lowered at this point. Mr. Prudenti said that there are no updated charges at this time.

Mr. Romeo had originally been scheduled to appear in court tomorrow, though both sides agreed to meet a day early. Neither prosecutors nor Mr. Romeo’s defense attorney commented as to why.

Both sides met in the Mr. Bruer’s chambers with the town justice for 15 minutes prior to the hearing.

When asked by Mr. Bruer,Mr. Romeo’s attorney, Steven O’Brien told the town justice that he hopes his client will be able to post bail soon.

Mr. O’Brien, declined to discuss his client’s injuries.

“I won’t offer comment on that,” he said. “I won’t offer comment on the case at all.”

According to authorities, Mr. Romeo was driving his truck westbound on Route 48 shortly after 5 p.m. on Saturday when he hit a limousine that had eight young women inside of it. Three were killed instantly, one died at the hospital and four more passengers were injured.

Assistant Suffolk County District Attorney Elizabeth Miller said on Sunday that additional charges are expected in the case as Mr. Romeo is currently facing just one misdemeanor drunk driving charge.

The crash took the lives of Brittany Schuman, 23, of Smithtown; Lauren Baruch, 24, of Smithtown; Stephanie Belli, 23, of Kings Park; and Amy Grabina, 23, of Commack.

Injured but surviving the crash were four additional passengers: Joelle Dimonti, 25, of Elwood; Melissa Crai, 23, of Scarsdale; Alicia Arundel, 24, of Setauket; and Olga Lipets, 24, of Brooklyn. The driver of the limousine, 58-year-old Carlos Pino of Bethpage, was also treated for non-life threatening injuries at a Suffolk County hospital.

Police were later notified that after the crash, Mr. Romeo had walked away from the scene. He allegedly climbed a six-foot fence and was found making his was down an embankment on the Cutchogue Waste Transfer Station property, Mr. Spota said.

A police officer followed after him and brought him back to the scene, according to the district attorney.

Mr. Romeo is due back in Southold Town Justice Court on Sept. 18.

Caption: A.D.A. John Scott Prudenti at Southold Town Justice Court on Thursday.