Judge grants motion in favor of driver in fatal Cutchogue crash
A Suffolk judge has granted a motion requested by the pickup driver involved in the fatal limousine crash in Cutchogue last year to hold a hearing to determine whether blood alcohol results were properly taken.
Steven Romeo, 55, of Peconic appeared before Judge Fernando Camacho in 1st District Court in Central Islip Tuesday morning.
Judge Camacho made a brief remark announcing the decision after a 15-minute conference in his chambers with assistant district attorney Elizabeth Miller and Mr. Romeo’s attorneys Stephen and Daniel O’Brien. Mr. Romeo faces a misdemeanor DWI charge related to the crash that killed four young women at the intersection of Depot Lane and Route 48.
Mr. Romeo is due back in court for a hearing Dec. 13.
Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said at a March press conference that the criminal liability for the crash fell solely on the limousine driver, Carlos Pino of Bethpage. Mr. Pino was indicted by a special grand jury on four counts of criminally negligent homicide, but those charges were dismissed last week by Judge Camacho based on a motion alleging prosecutors used improper testimony to produce an indictment for a collision that does not amount to a crime.
Mr. Spota said last week prosecutors will “certainly appeal” the decision.
Witnesses who testified before the grand jury, including a driver and three passengers waiting behind the limousine in an eastbound turning lane on Route 48, stated that Mr. Pino attempted to make a U-turn at the Depot Lane intersection despite having a “limited sight line,” Mr. Spota said in March.
A westbound Jeep Liberty attempting to make a left-hand turn off Route 48 to head south on Depot Lane obstructed Mr. Pino’s view, he said. Despite this, Mr. Pino attempted to make the U-turn without ever coming to a full stop, the DA added.
As Mr. Romeo approached the westbound intersection in his 2005 Dodge Dakota, the turning limousine blocked his lane of travel, Mr. Spota said.
Mr. Romeo, who told investigators he had been drinking beer at home in the hours before the crash, was charged with DWI the following day and pleaded not guilty.
A blood test taken one hour and 40 minutes after the crash revealed that Mr. Romeo’s blood alcohol was 0.066 — under the legal limit of 0.08 — Mr. Spota announced days later. However, he maintained that Mr. Romeo was “most likely” over the legal limit at the time of the crash.
Mr. Romeo’s attorney has fought the DWI charges based on Mr. Spota’s comments about blood alcohol content.