The mother of a 12-year-old boy who was struck and killed by an unlicensed driver while walking to school in Valley Stream called the sentence in the case an “insult” and vowed to fight for changes in the law.
“People get more time for crimes that don’t involve death,” Kathleen Flood said Wednesday in Nassau County Court. “Six months of jail time . . . is an insult.”
State Supreme Court Justice Angelo Delligatti sentenced Austin Soldano, 30, of Seaford, to a total of 18 months behind bars and 5 years of probation.
The judge said he was giving Soldano the maximum 6-month sentence for the fatal crash and also called the law “inadequate.”
Soldano, who pleaded guilty in November, hit Zachary Ranftle with a GMC Yukon on the morning of Dec. 11, 2014.
Authorities said Soldano’s license was suspended at the time, following a felony DWI arrest in Long Beach months earlier.
It was only shortly before Zachary died that the Boy Scout and Little League ballplayer had been allowed to start walking to school at Memorial Junior High School.
Soldano, who had worked in an auto repair shop, said in the Mineola courtroom Wednesday that he had “no words” to express the extent of his remorse.
“I accept all my consequences. . . . I am more remorseful than you guys can even imagine,” he said.
Zachary’s mother spoke of her son as a caring, cooperative child with a contagious smile who would do anything to help an animal or another person who was hurting.
“His life had just started,” Flood said, adding that the seventh-grader’s dreams were extinguished “because of the recklessness of someone else.”
“We will never be able to see him grow up to be the wonderful young man we knew he was going to be,” she said.
Before Soldano’s guilty plea, prosecutors got an indictment linking charges from his Long Beach arrest with charges including a misdemeanor count of aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle related to Zachary’s death.
Soldano, who previously had offered $10,000 to pay for Zachary’s funeral, ignored questions as court officers led him away in handcuffs Wednesday.
His attorney, Kenneth Fitzgerald of Mineola, declined to comment.
Zachary’s family has previously stood with officials including Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas, to call for legislation to increase punishment for drivers who hit and kill someone while driving without a license to up to seven years in prison.
Singas renewed a call for action Wednesday, and state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury) said Albany needs to act “to help ensure this injustice never happens again.”
Last year, he sponsored legislation written by Singas’ office, but it didn’t pass in the Assembly, authorities said.