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Victims’ Families Call Plea Deal For Driver In Deadly Long Island Limo Crash A Disgrace

CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A driver involved in a tragic crash in Long Island wine country that killed four young women in a limousine will avoid jail time after taking a plea deal Wednesday.

Steven Romeo, the man behind the wheel of a pickup truck that T-boned the limo, pleaded guilty to driving while ability impaired, a traffic infraction, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.

Prosecutors say his blood alcohol level of .06 about 90 minutes after the crash would not have resulted in a DWI conviction. So they agreed to the plea along with a sentence of a 90-day license suspension and $885 fine.

There were gasps and sobs in court from the victims’ parents, Gusoff reported.

Four young women were leaving a North Fork vineyard in July 2015 when their limo driver made what was then a legal but dangerous U-turn into the path of Romeo’s pickup truck.

Brittany M. Schulman, 23, of Smithtown; Lauren Baruch, 24, of Smithtown; Stephanie Belli, 23, of Kings Park; and Amy R. Grabina, 23, of Commack, were killed in the crash. Four other women and the limo driver were hospitalized.

Prosecutors say a reentactment proved the crash wasn’t Romeo’s fault.

“A sober driver would not have been able to react and prevent the crash based upon the limo driver’s actions that day,” Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney John Scott Prudenti said.

“Steve Romeo was not the cause of the accident nor was he intoxicated we said that from day one and today’s resolution of the case confirms that, but what no one has known is that Steve has felt sorrow for the families from day one,” Romeo’s attorney, Steve O’Brien said.

Romeo’s family and friends shielded him from cameras — even trying to block reporters from entering the courtroom.

Criminal charges had been dropped last year against the limo driver, Carlos Pino, after a judge found there had been improper grand jury testimony in the case.

The Suffolk County DA is appealing the judge’s decision to dismiss charges against Pino.

“A professional driver had put them in harm’s way by carelessly and negligently making that ill-advised turn into oncoming traffic,” Prudenti said.

Pino’s lawyers said the tragedy was an unintentional accident and not a crime

Families of the victims left the courtroom in tears — shaking their heads as they mocked a sentence that would mean no one would spend a day in jail for a crash that shattered many lives.

“This is heartbreaking, this is a parent’s worst nightmare,” Prudenti said.

Parents of the victims told CBS2’s Gusoff they will collectively comment one day, but not on a day when emotions were running so high. They said what they witnessed in court was a disgrace, and plan to sue both drivers.

 

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