A Muttontown man pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a misdemeanor connected to a crash that killed a doctor two years ago, which police said at the time involved no criminality.
The arraignment of Donald DiRenzo, 74, executive vice chairman at commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield in Manhattan, followed what his defense attorney said was a $2.5 million civil settlement with the doctor's family.
DiRenzo pleaded not guilty in Nassau County Court to an unclassified misdemeanor of reckless driving after an indictment last month.StorySyosset man dies after Monday crashphotosLI car accidents
The crash at about 10 a.m. on June 3, 2013, on Jericho Turnpike in Jericho killed Medhat Sami, 73, of Syosset, who had a medical practice in Queens.
"I was daydreaming," DiRenzo told police after the crash.
Court records show DiRenzo's 2013 Mercedes-Benz sedan rear-ended Sami's 2011 Infiniti sedan while it was stopped at a traffic light, causing the Infiniti to hit a 1999 Ford van in front of it.
"It was shocking to my client and to me that the DA's office was going to proceed on this after almost two years when it was . . . the feelings of the police at the time that this was an accident," said defense attorney Brian Davis of Garden City.
But Nassau prosecutors said that while they review fatal crashes with police, occasionally they investigate further -- as in this case -- when an issue of fact or law is unresolved.
"After a thorough investigation, the evidence relating to this heartbreaking crash that unexpectedly took the life of Dr. Medhat Sami was fully and fairly presented to a grand jury," acting District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement. " . . . A trial will determine whether the driver is guilty."
Prosecutors did not divulge other details.
Davis said his client was heading to work at the time of the crash, and a police probe showed DiRenzo wasn't under the influence of alcohol or drugs and wasn't using his cellphone at the time of the impact.
"My client admitted his negligence in this civil case but there's a huge difference between civil negligence and criminal recklessness," Davis said.
Prosecutors said civil cases have no bearing on whether a case is a criminal matter.
Sami's widow declined to comment Tuesday.