The 2- to 6-year sentence a Middle Island man got Wednesday for hitting and killing a man and leaving him dead in the street outside a Riverhead restaurant shows the law needs to be toughened, said the victim's family and Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota.
They spoke during and after the sentencing of Joseph Plummer, 49, who hit Scott Wayte of Brookhaven with his car as he crossed the street to his 50th birthday party in December. State Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen sentenced Plummer to slightly less than the maximum of 2 1/3 to 7 years.
After the impact, Plummer drove 13 miles home with a busted windshield and put his car under a tarp to hide it from police. He threw wood chips inside and planned to tell police he hit a tree, according to prosecutors. In a statement to police, he admitted drinking vodka earlier.
But because Plummer wasn't arrested at the scene, Spota said, there was no other evidence of intoxication, making it impossible to charge him with manslaughter. Plummer pleaded guilty last month to leaving the scene of a fatal accident.
Spota again called on the Assembly to pass a bill already approved by the State Senate toughening penalties for drivers who leave the scenes of fatal accidents. The sentence should be the same as for second-degree manslaughter, which carries a maximum of 5 to 15 years, he said.
"It's almost slaughter in the highways these days," he said.
In court, Wayte's family and friends heaped disdain on Plummer, who listened stoically.
"You left my dad on the road to be hit by another car," wrote daughter Alexandria Wayte in a statement read in court by her sister Brooke. "We walked out of the birthday party to see my dad under a car, and blood all over."
A niece, Melanie Stafford, told Plummer she hopes all of his days in prison "are as miserable as one could wish. . . . You're 49 years old, and you've never been a good American citizen. You're scum, and I hope you rot in hell."
Later, Stafford urged Long Islanders to contact their legislators to increase the penalty for this crime. "This is one area where we fall short," she said. "He clearly deserved more."
Plummer apologized in court. "I'm very sorry to the whole family that this ever happened," he said. "It wasn't on purpose. It was an accident."