A judge dropped all charges against a limo driver involved in the fatal crash in wine country that killed four women last year.
Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho ruled that the indictment against the driver, Carlos Pino, 58, contained improper grand jury testimony, PIX11 reported.
Sixteen charges were dropped against Pino, including criminally negligent homicide, assault and reckless driving. Although Pino no longer faces criminal charges, some families of the women have sued him for wrongful death, PIX11 reported.
“If I am wrong, I would like the DA’s office to appeal my decision, but I don’t think I am wrong,” Camacho said to the families, Newsday reported.
Camacho told the families he “agonized over this decision more than any other.”
Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said his office intends to appeal the “extremely disappointing” decision, PIX11 reported.
Steven Romeo, 55, stepped on the brakes of his pickup truck too late on a Saturday in July and struck the limo with the eight women who were celebrating a birthday, Metro reported in 2015. Romeo was under the influence of alcohol at the time, authorities said.
Brittney Schulman, 23, and Lauren Baruch, 24, both of Smithtown; Stephanie Belli, 23, of Kings Park; and Amy Grabina, 23, of Commack, were killed in the crash. The other four passengers were injured.
Romeo was charged with drunken driving at the time, despite being under the legal limit when he was tested. Prosecutors later decided that Romeo was not criminally responsible for the crash.
“Pino’s actions were far from just careless,” Spota said, PIX11 reported. “Pino, an experienced professional limousine driver carrying eight passengers, turned blindly into a roadway when his view was completely blocked by another car.
“Pino was driving a vehicle he knew or should have known could never make a safe U-turn under the circumstances. Justice Camacho’s decision appears to ignore this critical and distinguishing fact. Simply because others made the turn without harm did not make doing so safe or lawful when done blindly as Pino did.”