A Suffolk judge has dismissed all charges against an East Quogue teen who had been charged first with driving while intoxicated and later with criminally negligent homicide after a fatal crash that killed his friend.
Taylor Geib, now 18, was arrested June 26, 2011, after he lost control of his 2007 Honda on Lewis Road in East Quogue and crashed into a parked car. The collision killed his passenger, Cameron Nicholls, 18, of Quogue, who had graduated from Westhampton Beach High School that day.
"It's a tragedy, but not every tragedy is a crime," said Geib's attorney, Cornelius Rogers of Southampton.
Geib initially was charged with DWI when police said they found open containers of alcohol and a strong smell of alcohol in the car, but Suffolk prosecutors dropped that charge when toxicology tests showed no alcohol in his blood.
A grand jury then indicted Geib on a charge of criminally negligent homicide, but Rogers argued that was improper, too. Suffolk County Court Judge Gary Weber agreed.
He noted that a crash reconstruction found Geib was driving 68 mph in a 30 mph zone when he lost control on a curve, but in his ruling, Weber wrote that speeding alone is not criminal behavior.
"The defendant's behavior was certainly negligent and unquestionably blameworthy but the crash was, as a matter of law, the result of a noncriminal failure to perceive a risk," Weber wrote.
Rogers had asked prosecutors to advise the grand jury of that rule, but they refused. Weber also agreed that prosecutors should have given that advice.
"I'm still mystified that they did what they did," Rogers said.
"We are very disappointed the charges have been dismissed by the court," said Robert Clifford, spokesman for District Attorney Thomas Spota's office.
"Fatal accidents involving alleged speeding or reckless behavior by drivers, in particular teenage drivers, will receive appropriate attention from this office," Clifford said. "The fact remains that for too many years, Suffolk County has led New York State in automobile and pedestrian fatalities."
Rogers said his client graduated high school last month and will attend college upstate in the fall.