A judge has dismissed a criminal charge connected to a 2013 crash in Jericho that killed a doctor, finding his death happened because of another motorist’s negligence, but not recklessness.
In a March 30 decision, acting State Supreme Court Justice Meryl Berkowitz called the death of Medhat Sami, 73, “a tragedy,” and said her decision “is not meant to minimize that loss.”
But she said the facts of the case against the driver who hit him, Donald DiRenzo, 75, of Muttontown, “do not prove reckless driving, as a matter of law.”StoryMan pleads not guilty in fatal crashStorySyosset man dies after Monday crash
The judge added: “The test of reckless driving does not lie in speed alone, but in that and other circumstances, which together show a reckless disregard of consequence.”
Sami, who lived in Syosset, had a medical practice in Queens.
DiRenzo, a top executive at commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield in Manhattan, had pleaded not guilty to reckless driving, a misdemeanor in June.
His arraignment followed a grand jury’s indictment on that charge, nearly two years after the June 3, 2013, crash on Jericho Turnpike.
At the time of the crash, police had said no criminality was involved. But Nassau prosecutors said that while they review fatal crashes with police, sometimes they investigate further, as in this case.
DiRenzo told police he’d been daydreaming when his Mercedes-Benz sedan rear-ended Sami’s Infiniti sedan, which was stopped at a traffic light, causing the Infiniti to hit a Ford van in front of it, court records show.
DiRenzo’s attorney, Brian Davis, who had asked for the dismissal, reacted to the judge’s decision by saying “speeding by itself” is not reckless driving.
“My client is very relieved by this decision,” the Garden City attorney added. “But he still feels terrible for the loss suffered by the deceased’s family.”
Davis said previously that DiRenzo had admitted civil negligence in the case, and that his client’s arraignment came after a $2.5 million settlement with Sami’s family.
Brendan Brosh, a district attorney’s office spokesman, said Thursday that a grand jury believed DiRenzo’s distracted driving was enough to establish a reckless driving charge.
“The issue of distracted driving deserves to be aired in front of a jury,” he said. “We are examining our legal options.”