A Mastic Beach man who chased down, hit and killed two men riding a dirt bike he believed they'd stolen has a "serious moral flaw," a Suffolk judge said Tuesday as he sentenced the man to 3½ to 10½ years in prison.
Christopher Bouchard, 28, pleaded guilty in August to two counts of second-degree manslaughter in court in Central Islip. The June 22, 2017, crash on Montauk Highway in North Bellport killed the motorcycle's driver, Keenen King, 19, of Shirley, and his passenger, Anthony Holmes-Garriques, 20, of North Bellport.
Victims' family members did not speak in court Tuesday, but Holmes-Garriques' father began screaming in the courtroom after the sentencing was finished.
"We came here to speak to him!" he yelled as court officers escorted him out of the courtroom. Prosecutors had asked family members repeatedly if they wanted to speak in court, and they declined.
State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho noted that he approved the plea deal after he was assured several times that the victims' families had endorsed it. Assistant District Attorney Brendan Ahern said the families did so after "careful consultation" during the past year.
Camacho said the plea avoided what likely would have been a painful trial for the families, which would have lasted weeks and had no guarantee of success. And because Bouchard waived his right to appeal, Camacho said years of appellate proceedings also were avoided.
"I want to say I'm sorry to the families of the two young men," Bouchard said when it was his turn to speak. "I think about that day every day, and I wish I could take it back."
His attorney, John Halverson of Patchogue, said his client had been remorseful from the moment the men were hit. "My client is a good man, and he never wanted to hurt anyone," Halverson said.
Camacho seemed skeptical.
"This was no accident," the judge said. "What do you think is going to happen when you drive a 4,000-pound vehicle at 90 mph within inches of two young men on a bike without helmets? It was inevitable. They were going to die."
Family members began to cry, and Camacho continued: "For what? A dirt bike?" The judge noted that Bouchard's first impulse was to try to load the bike into the van rather than to see if King or Holmes-Garriques were OK.
"How do you compare the value of two young lives to a bike — a chunk of steel and rubber? Anyone who thinks there's an equivalence here has a serious moral flaw," Camacho said.
Halverson later disagreed with that assessment, but said his client did wrong and was going to pay for it.
Wayne Sands, who said he was King's stepfather, tearfully said afterward that he appreciated Camacho's remarks.
"I miss my son," he said.
Camacho earlier thanked the families for their patience as the case evolved. "You have shown a tremendous amount of class," he said.
The bike the two men were riding was stolen earlier in the day from Bouchard's brother, Brian Bouchard, 31, police said at the time. Brian Bouchard was a passenger in the Honda Odyssey minivan at the time of the crash, but was not arrested.
Prosecutors said Brian Bouchard called police about 7 a.m. that day to report his dirt bike had been stolen from his home in Mastic Beach. Later in the day, a friend called the Bouchards and said he had spotted the motorcycle in Bellport, prompting them to get into the van and go look for it, Assistant District Attorney Raymond Varuolo said at the time.
At Bouchard's arraignment last year, Varuolo said, "The defendant sped up [and] when the motorcycle slowed down, they turned to look at the minivan," he said. "The minivan at a high rate of speed then crossed two lanes, a center turning lane and into the oncoming traffic lane, where it struck the rear of the motorcycle, causing the two gentlemen to fly off the motorcycle."
King died at the scene, police said. Holmes-Garriques died later at Stony Brook University Hospital, after he was first taken to Long Island Community Hospital in East Patchogue. King, a senior at William Floyd High School, was scheduled to graduate in August 2017.