A Hempstead lawyer was released on bail Sunday after pleading not guilty to manslaughter in an alcohol-related crash that killed a Ronkonkoma man on the Long Island Expressway, authorities said.
Raj Jadeja, 34, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.12 according to a preliminary test at the scene of the crash early Saturday in Plainview, Nassau Assistant District Attorney Tara DePalo said at his arraignment Sunday at First District Court in Hempstead. A motorist with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 is presumed to be driving while intoxicated under the law.
Jadeja refused a blood test at the hospital, but police obtained a warrant for a sample, the results of which are pending, she said.VideoAlleged drunken driver out on bail after fatal crashMore coverageComplete coverage: Suspected DWI crashes, arrests on LI
Jadeja, 34, left the Hempstead courthouse after posting $275,000 cash bail Sunday with his wife, Kathryn Cimone, who also is his law partner at Jadeja & Cimone LLP. He and his wife declined to comment.
Friends of George Ragotte, 21, who died in the crash, appeared at the arraignment to call for tough prosecution of Jadeja.
"George was the best kid," said Fran Owens, mother of Ragotte's girlfriend, Angela Cassano, 27, of Levittown. She said he was "every mother's dream for her daughter."
Ragotte died after visiting Cassano. "He left our house happy as can be. Minutes later, he was dead," Owens said.
In addition to second-degree manslaughter in the four-car crash, Jadeja is charged with second-degree vehicular manslaughter, reckless driving and driving while intoxicated.
"It's obviously a horrific accident," said Jadeja's attorney, Amy Marion, of the law firm Barket Marion Epstein & Kearon of Garden City. "The family is feeling horrible."
Ragotte was driving a 1992 BMW sedan east on the LIE at 2:13 a.m. Saturday and had slowed to avoid two disabled vehicles that sideswiped each other east of Sunnyside Boulevard, police said. Ragotte's car was hit from behind by a 2012 BMW sedan driven by Jadeja, of Brooklyn, police said.
Ragotte was extricated from his car and taken to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, where police said he was pronounced dead at 6 a.m.
A 2012 Sachem North High School graduate, Ragotte worked as a diesel automotive mechanic, his family said.
"He was a good, kindhearted young man," said his mother, Joan Bottega. Cassano, in a statement, said, "He was my best friend and love of my life."
She said, of Jadeja, "It should've been him, not my love."
Marion told the court that Jadeja was raised in Deer Park, went to La Salle Academy and New York University, then Hofstra University Law School. She said he still has family on Long Island.
With Darran Simon