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Bethpage Man Gets 1 Year for Fatal DWI Hit-and-run
An admitted drunken driver from Bethpage who killed a 44-year-old bicyclist in a hit-and-run crash two years ago has been released from Nassau County jail after serving only one year behind bars.
Eric Tassiello had pleaded guilty in February 2012 at Nassau County court to vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident and driving while intoxicated. He was freed two months ago after completing the jail’s DART drug and alcohol treatment program.
“I have had enough time to think about my actions and I am extremely remorseful,” the 27-year-old unemployed bar back told Judge Alan Honorof on May 6, when he was sentenced to six months time served. “I can humbly say that I will never be back in front of this court for anything, especially [of] this magnitude.”
Authorities said Tassiello was driving his Kia southbound on Merritt Road in North Massapequa after leaving The Nutty Irishman in Farmingdale when he struck the victim from behind and fled the scene in the early morning hours of Jan. 11, 2011.
The victim, Juan Hernandez, later died of his injuries, which included internal bleeding.
Police caught Tassiello shortly after the crash. He was found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.20 percent—more than double the legal limit of 0.08 percent—about two hours after the crash despite telling the arresting officer that he only drank one beer, according to court documents.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Bushwack had recommended that Tassiello be sentenced to two to six years in prison. But, as a part of the plea deal with prosecutors and his Garden City-based attorney, Brian Griffin, Honorof promised that if Tassiello completed the DART program he would be eligible for early release.
“The court believes that it is in the interest of justice to accept the plea from this defendant,” Honorof said in court when Tassiello changed his plea.
Honorof also sentenced Tassiello to five years’ probation, a $750 fine and revoked his driver’s license for one year. He has until Aug. 19 to pay the fine.
“There has always been two systems of justice: One for those who have money, power and influence and another for the poor, no matter what their color, background or nationality,” said Allan Ramirez, the longtime advocate for Long Island’s Hispanic community who retired as pastor of the Brookville Reformed Church and moved to Mexico City last fall. “You are in deep ‘caca’ trying to get justice if your name is Juan Hernandez.”
Honorof is the same judge that reportedly drew ire from the families of two DWI crash victims’ when he sentenced Martin Heidgen to 18 years to life, instead of the maximum 25 to life, for killing limo driver Stanley Rabinowitz and 7-year-old flower girl Katie Flynn in a 2005 wrong-way crash.
Tassiello was initially released from jail after his arrest and then posted bail after first pleading not guilty in October 2011 to the charges in a grand jury indictment. He began serving his year in jail when he changed his plea to guilty four months later.
“As we got the updates throughout the course of this case from the DART program at the jail, I am very pleased and happy,” Griffin told the court last week, noting that Tassiello has been undergoing outpatient substance abuse treatment since his release. “He met each and everything he was asked to do. He met every milestone at the jail.”
Griffin did not return a call for comment. A spokesman for Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice declined to comment. John Fowle, the acting director of the Nassau probation department, referred a reporter’s question asking why a probation officer recommended Tassiello’s light sentence to a spokeswoman for Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, who also failed to respond to the query.