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Driver in fatal Greenport crash pleads guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide

A Greenport man pleaded guilty Friday to aggravated vehicular homicide for his role in causing a Route 48 crash that claimed the life of a Queens man last July.

Glenn Zaleski, 36, is now facing between 5 and 15 years in prison when he is sentenced by Suffolk County Supreme Court Judge Fernando Camacho later this year. Mr. Zaleski also pleaded guilty to aggravated driving under the influence.

“The case is what it is, he caused the death of somebody,” said attorney Anthony Rutkowski, who described himself as not only a lawyer for Mr. Zaleski but also his friend. “He obviously shows remorse, but he’s choosing not to put what happened behind him. He wants to put it in front of him. He faces it every day.”

Judge Camacho credited Mr. Zaleski, who has remained in jail since his arrest July 15, 2018, as being a positive influence on younger inmates.

“I’m told by staff at that facility that he’s been housed at that he’s been of tremendous support,” Judge Camacho said. “That’s been taken into account (in the plea deal).”

A counselor who has worked with Mr. Zaleski since his arrest appeared in the courtroom on his behalf in court Friday.

Mr. Rutkowski noted that his client is helping to “turn lives around.” He’s even met with high school students on visits to the jail, he said.

Mr. Zaleski was driving a 2016 Dodge pick-up truck eastbound on Route 48 near Chapel Lane around 8:30 a.m. July 15, 2018, when he crossed over into westbound traffic and struck a minivan with seven occupants, according to police. He was originally charged with driving while intoxicated and suffered only minor injuries in the crash, police said at the time. He was later arraigned on a 30-count indictment and faced more than 25 years in prison.

Witnesses said Mr. Zaleski swerved to the right of the road and overcorrected, crossing the double yellow line at “a high rate of speed” into the minivan. The force of the collision pushed the minivan off the road, prosecutors said at his initial arraignment in Southold Town Justice Court.

The driver of the van, You Feng Yang, 51, of Flushing was pronounced dead two hours later at Stony Brook University Hospital. Two passengers in the van were also airlifted to Stony Brook for treatment of serious injuries. The other four passengers, all adults from Flushing, were treated at local hospitals for injuries that were not life-threatening, according to police.

A blood test taken at the hospital following the crash showed Mr. Zaleski had a blood alcohol content of 0.23 percent, prosecutors said.

“This individual was driving with a [blood alcohol content] almost three times the legal limit,” District Attorney Timothy Sini said in a statement Friday. “When you get behind the wheel of a car in that state, you turn your vehicle into a potentially deadly weapon. It’s extremely dangerous and often — as it did with this case — results in tragedies that could have been avoided.”

Mr. Zaleski is due back in court for a pre-sentencing hearing in August. He will then be sentenced at a later date.

Caption: Mr. Zaleski at his arraignment in Suffolk County Court. (Credit: James Carbone/Newsday pool photo)