A Wheatley Heights man sent to prison last year for killing a friend while driving recklessly was back in court Friday on the same charges after finding out the terms of his sentence weren’t what he had been promised.
Brandon Charles, 21, pleaded not guilty Friday to second-degree manslaughter and other charges — 13 months after he pleaded guilty and was later sentenced to 3 to 9 years for the same crime.
Last September, he admitted causing the death of Carla Vanessa Flores, 19, of Wyandanch, saying he was speeding in the early hours of Nov. 1, 2014, when the car flipped in Melville.
At the scene, neither he nor the car’s owner, Joseph Dunn, 21, of Dix Hills, would say who was driving, so police had no authority to test either of them for alcohol or drugs. But the Suffolk Crime Laboratory tested a spot of blood on the driver’s doorjamb and matched it to Charles, showing he was the driver.
Charles accepted the plea deal, believing he would serve an abbreviated sentence in the Department of Corrections’ Shock Incarceration, a boot camp-like program for young offenders. But because Charles’ crime resulted in a death, he did not qualify for the program and state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho allowed him to withdraw his plea.
On Friday, Charles was arraigned again in Central Islip as the case started over. Camacho let him remain free on $100,000 bail.
Flores’ older sister, Viviana Betanco of Wyandanch, said it’s painful to face the prospect of a trial.
“It’s very hard,” she said. “It doesn’t get any easier.”
Despite Charles’ apology when he was sentenced last year, Betanco said she remains convinced that he’s not sorry for what he did.
Charles’ attorney, Peter Brill of Hauppauge, said fairness required his client to get a second shot at either a trial or negotiating a plea deal.
“Mr. Charles was promised a sentence that he did not receive,” Brill said.
His client remains remorseful, Brill said. In the aftermath of the crash, he said there was no attempt to avoid responsibility.
“I think you had a bunch of people who were in a horrible accident” that left a friend dead, and the confusion and shock overwhelmed them at the scene, Brill said.