A Bellport motorist pleaded guilty Thursday to hitting and killing a blind man walking in the street and leaving the scene.
In return for the plea from Ruddy Velasquez Morales, 27, state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho promised a sentence of no more than 364 days in jail and 5 years probation on Jan. 10 in Central Islip.
Velasquez faced a maximum of 2 1⁄3 to 7 years in prison for leaving the scene of a fatal accident without reporting it.
Camacho said he decided to offer the deal after he was inundated with positive letters from the community about the defendant and after he was satisfied the investigation showed Velasquez was not intoxicated at the time. The defendant was on his way to turn himself in to police when he was arrested, Camacho said.
Police had said Warren Karstendick, 64, of East Patchogue, was walking along Main Street in East Patchogue just before 7 a.m. on April 17 when he was struck. The victim’s brother has said Karstendick was blind and shouldn’t have been out on his own.
Surveillance videos showed Karstendick had veered into the roadway when he was hit by a sport utility vehicle.
Velasquez’ attorney, John LoTurco of Huntington, said his client, a construction worker, was sorry for what he did and left the scene only because he was panicked about his immigration status.
“He is highly remorseful and sincerely expresses his condolences to the Karstendick family,” LoTurco said. “He unfortunately left the scene because he is an undocumented immigrant.”
Camacho said his sentence of no more than 364 days is designed to avoid triggering a legal mechanism that would formally alert federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement to begin deportation proceedings.
Even so, Camacho warned Velasquez that he could still be deported as a result of the guilty plea.