Keith Dillon, right, is arraigned July 18, 2018 in Mineola.

Keith Dillon, right, is arraigned July 18, 2018 in Mineola. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A Coast Guard veteran, for the second time, has pleaded guilty to causing a 2018 drunken driving crash that derailed a Nassau police officer's career.

Defendant Keith Dillon admitted his guilt Tuesday as jury selection was about to begin in a trial that was set to go forward after an appellate court threw out his previous conviction in the case.

Dillon, 33, of New Hyde Park, pleaded guilty to felony charges of aggravated vehicular assault and assault and a misdemeanor drunken driving charge in a plea bargain that includes a prison term of 6 to 12 years.

The defendant also admitted a felony charge of tampering with physical evidence after recently refusing to let authorities collect a sample of his DNA.

The crash in Greenvale at about 2:30 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2018, happened as Officer Willard Gomes was working a New Year's DWI patrol. Dillon drove his Dodge Ram onto the center median on Glen Cove Road before hitting Gomes' unmarked patrol car head-on, according to authorities.

A prosecutor said at Dillon's 2019 sentencing that his blood alcohol content had been more than three times the legal limit at the time of the crash.

Gomes, then a 12-year police force veteran, suffered a brain bleed, a broken vertebra in his neck, a shattered elbow, a broken leg, an orbital bone fracture and the loss of several teeth in the wreck.

Nassau Police Officer Willard Gomes after Keith Dillon was sentenced the...

Nassau Police Officer Willard Gomes after Keith Dillon was sentenced the first time on Sept. 6, 2019 in Mineola. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Gomes still is undergoing rehabilitation and surgery, authorities said Tuesday.

"Officer Gomes' life was forever changed by the defendant's reckless decisions to drive at excessive speeds while extremely intoxicated and high," Nassau District Attorney Anne Donnelly said in a statement after Dillon's plea. "More than four years after this horrific head-on crash, Officer Gomes continues to fight for his recovery every day. No one should have to suffer like he has. We continue to wish Officer Gomes the best and thank him for his heroic service to Nassau County."

The U.S. Army veteran had said at Dillon's sentencing that he wouldn't hold a grudge, felt justice had been served and dreamed of one day returning to his police duties.

Dillon cried while apologizing to Gomes in court that day, saying he was "deeply sorry" for his "selfish, reckless actions" and hoped to turn his life around.

The appellate court tossed Dillon's conviction in June 2021, citing a Nassau judge's failure to tell Dillon at the time of his first guilty plea that he'd have to serve a term of post-release supervision in connection with his assault conviction.

Acting State Supreme Court Justice Caryn Fink on Tuesday committed to giving Dillon the same time behind bars he received at his first sentencing when she sentences him next month — with three years of post-release supervision.

Dillon's attorney, Greg Madey, told Newsday after court that Dillon appealed the case not because he didn't feel like he was guilty but because "he thought that he was sentenced higher because the victim was a police officer." 

The Mineola defense attorney added: "In the end I think he realized that if we went to trial, we were going to lose and he was going to get more time than the initial plea he took. But, you know, he was always sorry about what happened."

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