A Riverhead man was convicted Tuesday of driving while extremely drunk and killing a woman who was delivering newspapers in Hampton Bays.
A jury took less than two hours to find Joseph Perez guilty of aggravated vehicular homicide, second-degree manslaughter and second-degree vehicular manslaughter. The jury agreed that Perez drove with a blood-alcohol content of .23 percent -- almost three times the legal standard of .08 percent for drunken driving -- when he plowed into Donna Sartori's car, knocking her out of her seat 40 feet down the road.
"Yes! Yes!" her husband, Anthony Guggino, shouted in a Central Islip courtroom, as he heard the verdict. Perez, 31, didn't react.StoryCop: Accused drunk driver sat near bodyStoryADA: Driver was drunk, hit 3 cars and killed woman, dogstoryCops: Delivery woman killed by drunk driver
"I'm happy we got the verdict," Guggino said later. "But no matter what the verdict was, Donna's not coming home. . . . The pain's going to be with me the rest of my life."
Guggino said the lack of emotion Perez showed throughout the trial before state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho was striking to him.
"He can't be much of a good person," Guggino said. "It's a heart of concrete he's got to have."
Perez faces a maximum of 12 1/2 to 25 years in prison when Camacho sentences him June 25.
During his closing argument, defense attorney George Duncan of Central Islip suggested that the blood-alcohol reading was not accurate. He said studies have shown people absorb alcohol at different rates, and it's possible that Perez's night of drinking at home and at two bars had not fully intoxicated him before he hit two other cars, then hit Sartori in the early morning of Jan. 5, 2014.
"Does that show intoxication, or does it show poor judgment?" Duncan asked of his client's behavior.
Assistant District Attorney Carl Borelli told jurors there was no doubt Perez was drunk and that he was to blame for killing Sartori, 56, of Middle Island.
"Everything that happened that night was the result of choices he made," Borelli said. He dismissed Duncan's suggestion that a dark, snowy road played a role in the crash, noting that other motorists had no problem.
"Regular people can handle seeing a parked car," Borelli said. "He can't, because he's bombed."
Borelli was similarly dismissive of the idea that it can take hours to be affected by alcohol. "You all know better than that," he said.
Afterward, Borelli said the jury reached the only possible conclusion. "I think the facts were overwhelming," he said.