NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A mourning Long Island family is on a mission.
Karen Benjamin was killed by a hit-and-run driver on a Mount Sinai road in June. The suspect faces less than two years in prison.
“The man who hit my mom left her to die on the road. There was her DNA all over the car and they are only charging him with fleeing the scene,” a baffled Lindsay Benjamin said Friday.
Karen Benjamin was hit and thrown by a BMW that fled the scene, according to police.
“Our lives changed 180 degrees that second on Sunday, June 23, when he basically killed my wife,” Andrew Benjamin told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan.
Karen Benjamin did not die immediately.
“My mom lingered in the hospital for three-and-a-half weeks,” Jennifer Benjamin said.
Karen Benjamin succumbed to her injuries shortly after police tracked down a BMW that had been hidden behind a garage and announced that they had a suspect.
In death, Karen Benjamin’s family said that she inspired.
“She left this earth and she gave us her strength,” Lindsay said.
Now, the family said it is is using that strength to fight laws that they believe reward criminals.
By the time the suspect, Thomas Costa, a convicted felon, was arrested there was no proof that he had been drunk, under the influence of drugs, or speeding at the time of the accident.
Costa pleaded not guilty to fleeing the scene and could serve as little as two years behind bars. The district attorney wanted to charge him with vehicular manslaughter, McLogan reported.
“Those who kill people are getting away with it,” Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said.
The Benjamins want hit-and-run penalties raised for everyone, but defense attorneys have called the suggestion a slippery slope.
“Based on a suspicion that they engaged in criminal activity, not on real proof; that is not what our criminal justice system is based on,” said Mineola defense attorney Marc Gann.
At least a few thousand people do agree with the Benjamins and have signed an online petition that the family launched on Change.org.
Lindsay Benjamin said she remains committed to the cause.
“In honor of her memory, always. I will not stop fighting,” she said.
The Benjamins plan to travel to Albany and Washington to lobby legislators. The family wants to use the pain and anguish of the crime as a catalyst for change.
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