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Appellate judge denies James Ryan bail and conviction stay

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James Ryan, 29, of Oakdale, was sentenced to 12 years in prison on his conviction of aggravated criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter. A jury in February ruled that his drunken driving actions on Oct. 18, 2012, led to the death on the Long Island Expressway of Nassau County Officer Joseph Olivieri Jr. (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

An appellate judge has denied a request for a stay of sentence and release on bail from an Oakdale man who is appealing his conviction for causing a Nassau police officer’s 2012 death on the Long Island Expressway.

In February, a Nassau jury convicted James Ryan, 29, of charges including manslaughter, aggravated criminally negligent homicide and drunken driving in the death of veteran highway patrolman Joseph Olivieri Jr.

Last week, a judge sentenced Ryan to up to 12 years in prison. Ryan’s attorney, Marc Gann, said an appeal was immediately filed, along with a separate motion that lobbied for Ryan’s release from custody on bail as the appeal was underway.

But in a Friday decision, state Supreme Court Appellate Division Associate Justice Leonard Austin denied the defense’s motion.

Gann called the decision “very disappointing,” and said the defense’s next step would be “to perfect the appeal as quickly as possible.”

Ryan wasn’t behind the wheel of the vehicle that fatally struck Olivieri, but a jury found Ryan’s actions on Oct. 18, 2012, caused the officer’s line-of-duty death after Ryan drove drunk and set off a series of crashes.

Olivieri responded to the accident scene near LIE Exit 35 in North Hills. A Cadillac Escalade then hit and killed the officer after he had crossed LIE lanes on foot to check on Ryan, whose car was disabled in the HOV lane.

Prosecutors decided the actions of Escalade driver Francis Belizaire, 50, of Bay Shore, weren’t criminal and he got immunity from prosecution after testifying before the grand jury that indicted Ryan.

The defense had argued at trial that Belizaire was solely to blame for Olivieri’s death.

The guilty verdict came after a different Nassau judge had dismissed the top charges against Ryan in 2013 — charges an appellate court decision later restored.

Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said last week after Ryan’s sentencing that justice had been served.

“We are pleased that the judge agreed with our position that the defendant should continue to serve his sentence in prison pending any appeal,” Singas’ spokesman Brendan Brosh said Friday.

Speaking for Olivieri’s relatives, Nassau police union president James Carver said Friday that the fallen officer’s family was pleased with the new appellate decision.

Olivieri, 43, of Middle Island, was a father of two and a 13-year veteran of Nassau’s police force after serving five years with the NYPD.

His family remembered him at Ryan’s sentencing as a true public servant who was “loved by everyone he came in contact with.”

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