Victims angry as DWI case overturned
GalleriesNassau crime lab woes
Nicolas and Edita Bonilla say they want justice.
The couple, who were injured when Erin Marino rear-ended their minivan nearly two years ago, are outraged at a judge's decision Monday to toss the conviction over "potentially tainted evidence" at the Nassau County crime lab.
"It can't be possible that they are overturning the case," said Nicolas Bonilla, 40, of Hempstead. "She should have at least done a year."
Marino spent four months in jail after being convicted in August of aggravated vehicular assault, after police said she crashed her BMW into the Bonillas while driving drunk on June 25, 2009, in Glen Cove. Bonilla suffered injuries to his lower body, and his wife's injuries included a broken spine, thoracic cage and pelvis, a police report shows. Their 4-year-old daughter suffered cuts to her face and their 2-year-old daughter was not injured. A man in a third car also was hurt.
In her statement to police after the crash, Marino said that she had been discharged five days earlier from Seafield Rehabilitation Center in Westhampton Beach, where she went for alcohol rehabilitation. Marino also said she was taking a prescription medication for anxiety.
Brian Griffin, Marino's attorney, sued to overturn the conviction in December -- 11 days after the crime lab was put on probation by a national lab-accreditation agency that cited 26 violations. Nassau County officials have since shuttered the lab because of questionable work.
Griffin blamed the crime lab for Monday's court decision. A judge ordered a new trial, though the state is appealing.
"When evidence is improperly withheld, it harms all parties involved," Griffin said. "It is the police lab that made significant mistakes and withheld evidence."
The morning of the crash started with Marino running errands and shopping. Her statement to police shows there was a stop at a CVS pharmacy to pick up soap, suntan lotion, Benadryl and Skittles.
Afterward, she decided on a detour. She steered her white 2008 BMW 325i to a liquor store on South Oyster Bay Road in Syosset, court records state, and purchased two "sample bottles" of Absolut vodka, drank them and then renewed her gym membership, police said.
It was 10 a.m. The Bonillas were on their way to visit Nicolas' sister in Glen Cove.
But back behind the wheel, Marino, 30, of Hicksville, drove to shop for clothes on South Oyster Bay Road in Syosset. Then it was time for another drink, police said. Marino, at the time a fourth-grade teacher in the Connetquot school district, drove to another liquor store and bought another small bottle of vodka.
Marino drank her vodka in the parking lot. "The next thing that I remember was that I was at the hospital with the police officers around me," she told police.
All Edita Bonilla, 39, remembers is sitting in the passenger seat waiting for the green light. Nicolas remembers the sound of a loud bang and the impact, followed by a pain in his head.
Bonilla said he turned and saw his wife, looking "almost dead." Shrieks and cries erupted from the backseat. His two daughters were still buckled in but the backseat was turned over.
Marino's speed was estimated as fast as 100 mph, records show.
When Marino consented to a blood-alcohol test about 2:15 p.m., it found she had a blood-alcohol level of 0.19 percent -- more than twice the state's legal limit of 0.08.
In August 2009, the Bonillas filed a civil lawsuit against Marino seeking an unspecified amount for damages. A trial is scheduled for next month.
Nick Russo, the attorney representing Marino in the civil case, declined to comment.