Damian Dudkiewicz, 28, was found not guilty of second-degree manslaughter and second-degree assault. A Suffolk jury deliberated 51/2 hours after eight weeks of testimony before reaching the verdict.
As Dudkiewicz lowered his head and wept, state Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen told jurors they were "truly extraordinary" after enduring such a lengthy trial and sticking with the case even through the disruptions of two major storms.
"After three years, I can start my new life," Dudkiewicz said outside the courtroom. "I'm thankful for everyone who believed in me."
His attorney, William Keahon of Hauppauge, said, "It was one of the most difficult cases I've had to try because of the number of deaths involved. . . . The most difficult part of this trial, for me, was the belief that jurors might want to punish someone for these deaths."
Prosecutors, who declined to comment after the verdict, said Dudkiewicz and Michael Fredericks of Babylon engaged in an impromptu race on July 26, 2009. Dudkiewicz swerved to avoid another car, lost control and hit a minivan coming the other way.
Killed were a passenger in the minivan, Teresa Zuardo, 69, of Brooklyn; and Dudkiewicz's passengers: Grzegorz Osko, 29; his wife, Kamila Boriczka Osko, 26; and Dudkiewicz's pregnant fiancee, Magda Siwik, 30, all of Lindenhurst.
Prosecutors said the evidence of racing came from the testimony of two people in a car driving behind Dudkiewicz and Fredericks, along with a statement police say the defendant signed in which a race is described.
But Keahon argued that those witnesses weren't reliable, and neither was the detective who testified that Dudkiewicz admitted racing. The defense attorney said the crash was an accident, not a crime.
Jurors declined to comment afterward.
Facing the same charges, Fredericks, 23, is scheduled to go on trial in January, but his attorney, Stephen Civardi of Freeport, said the case will have to be dismissed. The indictment says both men acted together, but now that one man has been found not guilty, the charges against the other make no sense, he said.