The 27-year-old driver who killed a Lynbrook couple by plowing into their car while high on marijuana said Friday he would trade places with the victims if it was possible “to give them back their breath.”
Island Park native John Aniano apologized to relatives of Sharon Long, 53, and her longtime companion, John Jones, 54, before a Nassau County Court judge sentenced him to the top penalty of 8 and 1/3 to 25 years in prison.
In December, a jury found him guilty of aggravated vehicular homicide and other charges in the Jan. 12, 2015 crash on Sunrise Highway in Lynbrook.
“I truly wish that the wheel of fortune and fate could have spun more favorably in the direction of Ms. Long and Mr. Jones instead of mine, and if it were only possible I would immediately trade my existence to give them back their breath,” Aniano said.
Prosecutors said Aniano drove his car “like it was a rocket ship” at speeds topping 90 mph, blowing through red lights before his Mercedes-Benz slammed into the back of the victims’ Toyota Avalon at 8:13 p.m. that night.
Jones and Long were stopped at a red light and the impact pushed their car into oncoming traffic.
Aniano, who has bipolar disorder, also said Friday he could never forgive himself and was in a “state of eternal misery,” knowing there was nothing he could do “to help heal a wound that can never be healed.”
Acting State Supreme Court Justice Meryl Berkowitz said she believed the apology was sincere. But she said he hadn’t taken his mental health medications, had chosen to “self-medicate” with marijuana, and two people were gone because of his choices.
“Every morning when you wake up, when you get to see daylight, at one point or another, you have to remember those two people who didn’t get that,” she told Aniano.
Defense attorney Joseph Lo Piccolo argued during the trial that the crash was an accident brought on by a mental health episode Aniano suffered and not his client’s marijuana use. The Garden City lawyer said Aniano’s mental health issues caused him to “decompensate” after he hadn’t taken prescriptions for about two days, and that tests showed later his client’s prescribed dosage level wasn’t enough to treat him.
After court Friday, Lo Piccolo said he and his client were “shocked and saddened by the sentence,” and Aniano would appeal his conviction.
The victims had shared an apartment nearby with their beloved dog and had been together for about two decades. Long’s sister, Pamela Duncan, 48, of East Orange, New Jersey, said Friday her sibling had been her best friend who she talked with every day.
“I don’t get to hear my sister’s voice … This is such a devastating moment for me and my family,” she said.
Jones’ brother, Massapequa resident David Jones, said the victims’ relatives were “doing a life sentence without them.”
Prosecutor Michael Bushwack later called Aniano’s sentence “just,” saying relatives of Jones and Long had been suffering for years now with the loss “of loved ones that meant so much to so many.”