A judge on Monday used the words of an Adelphi University student who died in a Levittown hit-and-run crash to admonish her killer before sentencing him to prison.
Acting State Supreme Court Justice Terence Murphy told Daniel Coppolo while punishing him with 5 to 15 years behind bars that he wanted the former FDNY employee to learn about the future he stole.
Coppolo, 33, of Deer Park, pleaded guilty in April to charges including manslaughter, leaving a fatal crash and tampering with evidence after the Nov. 9, 2017, death of Taranjit Parmar, 18, of Levittown.
Prosecutors said Coppolo and Parmar had a fender-bender that turned tragic when Coppolo dragged Parmar and ran over her after she approached his pickup.
“Mr. Coppolo, I want you to hear from Taranjit herself — what you took away,” Murphy said Monday in Nassau County Court.
The judge then read two letters the victim wrote in 2016 in her Advanced Placement Literature Class at Division Avenue High School, where she graduated from before enrolling in Adelphi’s dental program on a full scholarship.
The student wrote to her 7-year-old self in one letter, reflecting on moving to Levittown and other childhood memories that made many of her relatives and friends sob in the courtroom.
“As times get tougher, please remember the good will always defeat the bad,” the letter said.
Parmar also wrote of being “happy and excited to go to college,” and added: “Life is too short to have regrets and I like the way I turned out to be.”
In the other letter, Parmar wrote to her 27-year-old self, wondering if she had finished her dental studies, started her first professional job or fallen in love.
“You stole that from her,” Murphy told Coppolo.
Defense attorney Lawrence Carra told the judge that Coppolo has bipolar disorder and was off his medication and not acting rationally at the time of the crash.
The lawyer said previously that the FDNY suspended Coppolo from his dispatcher job for erratic behavior months before the fatality and that his client’s family had tried to get the man some psychiatric help.
The defendant’s father, Frank Coppolo, 59, of Dix Hills, said outside the courthouse Monday that his son’s mental health spiraled downward a few months before the crash when he got a prescription to treat poison ivy that made him manic.
After that, Coppolo’s family tried to get him help, but medical facilities kept releasing him, the father said.
“We’re using the criminal system to address mental illness … We had an opportunity here to help somebody, to prevent this, and the system said no,” Frank Coppolo said.
Prosecutors said the defendant tried to repair his truck in a cover-up effort after fleeing the scene of the crash that followed the motorists’ initial collision on Hempstead Turnpike.
The drivers pulled into a parking lot before Parmar got out of her sport utility vehicle and walked to Coppolo’s truck to exchange insurance information, according to authorities.
Coppolo admitted when he pleaded guilty that he knew Parmar was holding onto his pickup as he fled and that he drove over her.
Prosecutors said witnesses called 911, but Parmar died that night while hospitalized.
Police said they arrested Coppolo in Parmar’s death that December, after finding his Toyota Tacoma in a Target parking lot in Westbury following his Nov. 13 arrest for threatening a store employee with a knife after shoplifting.
Detectives identified Coppolo as a suspect in the dragging through witnesses, video, tips and a records search focused on finding his pickup, authorities said.
The victim’s mother, Kulvinder Kaur, 46, was on the phone with her as she walked to Coppolo’s truck and heard the 18-year-old cry out before the call disconnected, according to the victim’s family.
“I never got a chance to say goodbye,” Kaur told the judge Monday.
The mother called her eldest daughter a sweet, humble and optimistic person who was “always pushing herself to reach new levels of success.”
The victim’s father, Ranjit Parmar, 52, said his daughter “was truly an angel in a human body.”
He said she studied hard to earn her scholarship and dreamed of having her own dental practice before Coppolo “snatched all that away from her.”
Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas later called Parmar a “bright star” in the community whose life was taken too early because of the defendant’s selfishness.
“We hope that today’s sentence offers some closure for this horrific act,” she added.
It was an act, Coppolo told the judge, that he was “solely responsible for,” after growing up as someone who had wanted to save lives.
Coppolo recalled how he’d worked for FDNY and also had been a volunteer firefighter and EMT. He called Parmar’s death “a senseless tragedy,” but not one he could blame on his mental condition.
“On that tragic day, I was not myself … I failed to realize I was out of control and acting irrationally,” Coppolo told the judge.
He also had words for the victim’s parents.
“I know you loved your daughter and I’m sorry I took her away from you,” Coppolo said.