Lawyer: Driver in fatal crash wasn't drunk

A three-car accident left the eastbound Southern State A three-car accident left the eastbound Southern State Parkway closed between Bethpage Parkway Exit 31 and Route 110 Exit 32. (Sept. 11, 2011) Photo Credit: Paul Mazza

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An East Meadow man accused of causing a crash that killed an off-duty New York City police officer Sunday was not drunk, and the officer may have been drinking and speeding, the lawyer for the defendant told a judge Wednesday.

"I have information that the decedent may have been drunk, driving at an excessive rate of speed, and wasn't wearing a seat belt," attorney Bruce Barket told Nassau County Judge Francis Ricigliano.

His client, Jonathan Lopez, 20, has been charged with second-degree vehicular manslaughter and drunken driving in connection with the crash on the Southern State Parkway that killed off-duty NYPD Officer Kevin Jessup, 25, of Massapequa.

Lopez, who is free on bail, has pleaded not guilty. Asked outside of court why he said Jessup may have been drunk or speeding, Barket said only that the officer was coming from a birthday party before the 5:35 a.m. crash.

Jessup's father, Ron Jessup of Brooklyn, said it was "ludicrous" to say his son was drunk or speeding. "He wouldn't do that."

Lopez said in a statement to State Police that he was driving east on the parkway from a friend's house in East Meadow to his ex-girlfriend's house in Farmingdale when he felt a car clip him and then his car flipped over. Police documents said Lopez took a portable breath test several hours after the crash that showed his blood-alcohol content was .059, below the .08 legal limit.

State Police said in court papers that Lopez was speeding, lost control of his car, and swerved into the right lane to avoid a collision. There he struck Jessup and sent the officer's 2009 Nissan Maxima into trees by the parkway, papers said.

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Jessup, who was with girlfriend, Crystal Simons, 30, of Valley Stream, was thrown from the vehicle during the crash on the Babylon/Oyster Bay border. Simons was treated at a hospital and released. New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Jessup was not wearing his seat belt.With William Murphy

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