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Christopher O’Brien pleads not guilty to DWI in fatal wrong-way crash

Christopher O'Brien, 54, leaves the Fifth Precinct in

Christopher O'Brien, 54, leaves the Fifth Precinct in Patchogue on Friday, Dec. 25, 2015. He pleaded not guilty in a Cenral Islip courtroom to driving while intoxicated. Suffolk police said he drove the wrong way on Sunrise Highway before crashing into another car, killing Thomas D'Eletto, 57, of Aquebogue. Credit: Ed Betz

A Port Jefferson Station man who police said caused a fatal crash early Wednesday while going the wrong way on Sunrise Highway in Yaphank pleaded not guilty Friday to a charge of driving while intoxicated.

Christopher O’Brien, 54, wore a hospital dressing gown and scrubs at his arraignment in First District Court in Central Islip. Judge Pierce Cohalan ordered him held on $150,000 cash bail or $450,000 bond.

A court-appointed attorney for O’Brien declined to comment after the arraignment. O’Brien is due back in court Thursday.

The crash occurred about 5:30 a.m. Wednesday and killed Thomas D’Eletto, 57, of Aquebogue, police said. O’Brien sustained an unknown injury in the crash and is being treated at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in Patchogue.

Suffolk police said O’Brien drove an Audi A4 east in the westbound lanes of Sunrise Highway and crashed head-on into D’Eletto’s 2010 Toyota Corolla.

D’Eletto was pronounced dead at the scene.

O’Brien failed field sobriety and breath analyzer tests at the crash site that showed he had a 0.21 percent blood-alcohol level, more than twice the legal limit, Suffolk prosecutor Marc Lindemann said.

A blood sample for testing was drawn from O’Brien at the hospital after police received a warrant.

Police are still processing blood and urine samples and analyzing evidence — the results of which could take weeks, Lindemann said, adding that an upgrade or additional charges have not been ruled out.

O’Brien told police he had one beer before starting the drive home from his girlfriend’s Medford residence, Lindemann said in court.

After the crash, O’Brien appeared unsteady on his feet, had bloodshot eyes and slurred his speech, police said in court records.

Earlier, the Port Jefferson Station man appeared solemn as Suffolk police officers escorted him from the Fifth Precinct before his court appearance. He shook his head in response to reporters’ questions but said nothing.

Cohalan said in court he considered O’Brien’s criminal history, which includes past charges of drug possession, impaired and unlicensed driving and failure to appear in court, when he set bail. Prosecutors initially asked for $500,000 cash or $1 million bond.

“This is every family’s nightmare,” Lindemann said. “It’s nothing less than a nightmare before Christmas.”

With Jennifer Barrios

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