A Hicksville man is expected to serve eight months in jail and probation after pleading guilty Tuesday in connection with a deadly crash that followed a pursuit by undercover officers who the victim’s family contends may have violated Nassau police procedure.
Justin Daley, 29, pleaded guilty to manslaughter, reckless endangerment and reckless driving for his role in the July 20, 2015, crash in East Meadow that killed Ming “Anna” Deng, 58.
Prosecutors have said Deng’s car was stopped at a red light when Daley, who was fleeing from police at high speed after they saw him by a motel with an alleged prostitute, struck the victim’s vehicle with his car and pushed it into a pole.
But Daley’s attorney, Brian Griffin, said Tuesday that his client, who served two combat tours in Iraq as a U.S. Marine, “did not know that these were police officers” who were pursuing him in an unmarked van. Court records show Daley asked police after the crash if they were cops, and also remarked: “They were chasing me without lights.”
Acting state Supreme Court Justice Patricia Harrington said she decided Daley’s punishment after repeated discussions with the prosecution and defense and a review of records. Prosecutors had recommended a prison term of 4 to 12 years.
Daley, who had faced up to 5 to 15 years in prison, also will have to serve 5 years of probation and do 500 hours of community service after jail. While taking his plea, Harrington referenced Daley’s contention that he didn’t know he was fleeing from the police. But she also said his conduct had led to someone’s death.
In an August ruling, the judge wrote, police didn’t initially have their emergency lights on when they began following Daley, but activated them when they drove across a median after he changed his direction. Then after a “crazy U-turn” by Daley, police activated their van’s siren, but couldn’t catch up to the defendant before he crashed, the ruling said.
“The judge by her sentence has clearly taken into account both the unfortunate fact that members of the Nassau County Police Department failed to follow police pursuit protocols, as well as Mr. Daley’s significant military service to this country,” said Griffin, who added that area surveillance cameras captured only some of the encounter.
Court files showed part of the records in the Daley case included that two of the three undercover police officers, Carl Arena and Peter Ellison, were part of a 2014 Uniondale case that prosecutors dropped after the officers arrested a man on charges including resisting arrest and a video surfaced that didn’t show the man resisting them.
Deng’s daughter, Tiffany Yun, 30, of Queens, said Tuesday her mother – a hospital radiologist – had been an “intelligent, hardworking woman,” who was a physician in China before coming to the United States in 1992 for a better life.
“I want to know if the undercover cops followed a hundred percent of Nassau County’s protocol. I don’t have the answers to that,” she said after court.
The victim’s family has sued Daley and the county, and their attorney, Joshua Pollack, said police may have been chasing Daley “in a fashion that’s not appropriate.”
A county spokesman referred questions to the police department, but officials there didn’t immediately issue a comment.
Police union president James Carver said the officers involved “acted properly,” and the focus “should really be on the person that was fleeing … he was the one to blame for the death of the victim, no one else.”
Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas called the case “particularly tragic,” adding: “Our view of the case, the entire case, taking all circumstances into consideration was that this defendant should have received a sentence of 4 to 12.”
Singas didn’t comment Tuesday on the specifics of the police pursuit, or on the records of the involved officers.
But she added that she hoped the police department would “review the circumstances of how it is that officers pull over people suspected of crimes, and when they engage in chases and when they don’t.”