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DA won't offer different plea deal in crash that injured cop

Keith Dillon, right, after his July 2018 arraignment

Keith Dillon, right, after his July 2018 arraignment in Mineola. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County prosecutors will give a Coast Guard veteran who admitted causing a drunken driving crash that derailed a cop's career until August to take the same deal that led to his 2019 conviction — which an appeals court tossed.

Keith Dillon, 32, of New Hyde Park, had pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular assault, assault and DWI in a deal that sent him to prison for 6 to 12 years.

But an appellate court decided last month that acting State Supreme Court Justice William O’Brien erred when accepting Dillon’s guilty plea because he didn't tell Dillon he would also face post-release supervision. The ruling returned the case to Nassau County Court.

Prosecutor Stefanie Palma said as Dillon appeared in court Monday that the Nassau district attorney’s office would withdraw its plea offer and be ready for trial if Dillon didn’t take the identical deal at his next court date. She said Dillon faces a maximum of 5 to 15 years on the aggravated vehicular assault charge and 7 years on the assault charge — the top two charges of his indictment — if convicted at trial.

"There will never be any sort of negotiation with regard to Mr. Dillon’s sentence," Palma told Nassau Supervising Judge Teresa Corrigan of her office’s position.

Corrigan appointed a new defense attorney to represent Dillon after Marc Gann, who initially handled Dillon's case, bowed out Monday. The judge found Dillon couldn't afford a private attorney anymore.

She added that it would be a conflict of interest for Gann to continue with the case because Dillon’s appellate lawyer had said Gann’s representation had been ineffective. The appellate court didn’t consider that claim before vacating Dillon's conviction, according to Corrigan.

The wreck happened at about 2:30 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2018, as Nassau police Officer Willard Gomes was working a New Year’s anti-DWI patrol in Greenvale. Gomes suffered injuries that included a brain bleed, a broken vertebra in his neck, a broken leg and an orbital bone fracture. A police union official told Newsday last week that Gomes remains on medical leave years later.

Dillon apologized to Gomes at his 2019 sentencing, telling him he was "deeply sorry" for his "selfish, reckless actions." Gomes, then 38, said that day he wouldn’t hold a grudge against Dillon and felt justice was being served. Gomes, an Army veteran, then vowed to "do anything it takes" to someday return to his police duties.

Dillon will remain at Nassau's jail until his next court date on Aug. 23.

The judge also said she would bump Dillon’s trial ahead of others if a deal wasn’t reached.

Dillon’s new attorney, Luigi Vigliotti, and a district attorney's office spokesman declined to comment later Monday.

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