The Mastic Beach man who drove a minivan into two men riding a dirt bike he believed they had stolen pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree manslaughter Thursday in Central Islip.
In return for the plea, Christopher Bouchard, 28, will be sentenced to 3 1/2 years to 10 1/2 years in prison. 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.
Although Assistant District Attorney Brendan Ahern assured state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho that the victims’ families supported the plea deal, some of them exploded in rage as soon as they were out the courtroom door.
“This is injustice,” said Lina Garriques, the mother of Holmes-Garriques, as tears rolled down her face and court officers struggled to close the courtroom doors. “It was murder. I’ve been saying it from the start. I agreed to it because I didn’t want him to walk. I want him to suffer. He killed my baby. That’s what he did.”
Another woman who did not identify herself, yelled: “Suffolk County is a joke! They give drug dealers who kill people more time than that. Suffolk County is wrong!”
A family friend and neighbor, Joel Diamond, said he believed Bouchard would have been sentenced more harshly if the parties’ races were different. Bouchard is white and the dead men were black.
“The community is outraged,” said Diamond, who is white. “It’s a white privilege issue. It’s a vigilante murder. It’s Suffolk County.”
In court, Ahern said the plea was the result of extensive conversations with the victims’ families.
“We’ve kept them informed throughout these stages,” he told Camacho, who said he was approving the plea deal in part because Ahern said the families supported it.
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.
Bouchard, barely audible, answered “Yes, your honor,” as Camacho asked him whether he recklessly caused the deaths of King and Holmes-Garriques.
Bouchard’s attorney, John Halverson of Patchogue, said his client took responsibility for what he did.
“There was never any intent of hurting anybody,” Halverson said. “He is extremely remorseful. I think the best thing for everybody was what happened.”
He declined to talk about whether race played a role in the case. Prosecutors declined to comment afterward.
Camacho will sentence Bouchard on Oct. 9.
The bike the two men were riding probably 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.
At the time of Bouchard’s arraignment last year, Assistant District Attorney Raymond 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 Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in East Patchogue.
King, a senior at William Floyd High School, was scheduled to graduate last August.
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 stolen motorcycle in Bellport, prompting them to get into the van and go to Bellport to look for it, Varuolo said at the time.