A Sound Beach woman almost made it home the night of Oct. 18, 2014, walking drunk and occasionally veering into the road, until she was hit and killed by a neighbor’s box truck. Suffolk prosecutors told a jury Tuesday that the neighbor was also drunk — and that’s why he fled the scene.
But attorneys for the driver, Christopher Campbell, 37, argued the case against him is so weak it’s practically nonexistent, built on a foundation of vengeful lies by prosecutors concerned more with a conviction than justice in the death of Tracy Mangino, 40.
Campbell’s trial on charges including vehicular manslaughter and driving while intoxicated began Tuesday in Central Islip before state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho.
Assistant District Attorney Carl Borelli conceded that Mangino was drunk after a night at a breast cancer fundraiser at Napper Tandy’s, a Rocky Point pub.
Several people saw her walking home unsteadily while carrying her boots and called police. But before police could check on her, Borelli said a homeowner’s surveillance video showed her bending over to pick up something on North Country Road, just as Campbell’s truck comes upon her.
“Whack!” Borelli said, smacking his palm. “The corner of the box hits her. She snaps her neck, just like that.”
Campbell didn’t stop or pull over, Borelli said, because he had gotten intoxicated at the same bar.
Defense attorney William Keahon of Hauppauge urged jurors to consider the source of that information — his client’s now former girlfriend, not a breath or blood test taken by police.
“They manufactured a DWI,” Keahon said of prosecutors. “We talked in jury selection about witnesses lying to get someone in trouble. That’s what you’re going to see in this case.”
He noted that before Campbell was charged, he never hid his truck and cooperated with police for months until they charged him with leaving the scene of a fatal accident. Prosecutors filed the new charges only a year ago, when Campbell rejected plea offers and a trial on that charge was about to begin.
He suggested his client never saw Mangino on the dark road. He noted that the part of the truck that hit her as she bent over was behind and 9 inches beyond the cab’s passenger door.
Later Tuesday, defense attorney George Duncan of Central Islip moved for a mistrial after Borelli brought out testimony from the first police officer on the scene, Michael Harrigan, that he’d been injured by a drunken driver. Duncan said that information was irrelevant and designed to prejudice the jury.
But Camacho denied the motion, noting the information did not affect Campbell’s right to a fair trial.
Keahon told the judge that Borelli’s behavior was unethical and it would continue as long as it went unchecked.
“It’s reprehensible,” Keahon told Camacho. “With all due respect, unless judges stop this behavior, it will continue.”
“I understand,” Camacho replied.