A Suffolk judge Tuesday set a $2 million bond – doubling the initial bail – for a Bay Shore man accused of drunken driving in a 2017 fatal crash after prosecutors alleged they caught him on video faking injuries in an attempt to be declared unfit to stand trial.
But the attorney for Fernando Ramirez, 32, indicted last year for his alleged role in a three-vehicle accident in Hauppauge that killed Daniel Granados, 31, of Central Islip, and seriously injured himself and another man, said his client has documented injuries from the crash. He said the district attorney's surveillance video shows nothing incriminating.
Prosecutors allege Ramirez, who has pleaded not guilty to charges that include seven counts of aggravated vehicle homicide, sustained two broken femurs in the crash. He is accused of driving under the influence of alcohol and registering a 0.19 blood alcohol content about an hour after the Nov. 27, 2017, crash. Prosecutors also allege a blood test showed the presence of THC, the active chemical in marijuana, in his system.
Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini said Tuesday that Ramirez, who had been free on a $1 million bond on the indictment, repeatedly showed up to court in a wheelchair — including on Tuesday — and appeared incapable of following the proceedings in what Sini called a "fraud on the court."
Investigators in the prosecutor's office, who tailed Ramirez for the last few months and set up video surveillance outside his home, found Ramirez allegedly loading his wheelchair into his car for court appearances and doing chores that showed he was far more physically able.
"He’s essentially feigning paralysis and cognitive impairment to the point where he’s sitting comatose in his wheelchair, drooling, not being responsive to the court," said Sini, who said prosecutors are examining whether they will charge Ramirez for the alleged fraud.
Ramirez's defense attorney, Scott Gross of Garden City, dismissed the possibility of new charges and said Ramirez's alleged fraudulent conduct "does not run afoul of the law."
"Although the allegations against Mr. Ramirez are serious, the issue before the court is my client's mental competency," said Gross. "The mere fact he was walking without the assistance of a wheelchair is proof of nothing. In fact, it is well documented that Mr. Ramirez is suffering from a traumatic brain injury and all of the evaluations have been consistent with that diagnosis."
Nevertheless, when prosecutors presented the surveillance video evidence to state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho Tuesday, he doubled Ramirez's bond.
Assistant District Attorney Maggie Bopp, who's prosecuting the case, became suspicious of Ramirez and the district attorney's office launched an investigation in July, which included setting up a surveillance camera outside of Ramirez's home and having a Suffolk patrol officer initiate a traffic stop of Ramirez's vehicle, Sini said.
On July 30, at the direction of the DA's office, Suffolk police pulled over a car that Ramirez was riding in and he spoke to the officer, further evidence, Sini said, that Ramirez is lucid.
Sini said Ramirez initially was granted bail based partly on his alleged wheelchair confinement. Bopp Tuesday sought to have Ramirez held without bail. As of Tuesday night, he had yet to post the new bond.
"Our goal in this case is to seek justice," said Sini. "We’re not going to allow this defendant to avoid responsibility. The person who died here was a father of four. That's not lost upon us."