A Mastic Beach man accused of fatally driving his minivan into two men on a dirt bike was arraigned on upgraded charges Monday — but the victims’ friends and families say the defendant is still being treated too leniently.
The families of dirt bike driver Keenen King of Shirley and his passenger Anthony Holmes-Garriques of North Bellport erupted in frustration and anger as Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Raymond Varuolo read the upgraded charges against Christopher Bouchard Monday in Central Islip.
“It’s a slap in my face and a slap on his wrist,” King’s father Will Sands shouted as he stormed out of State Supreme Court Justice’s Fernando Camacho’s courtroom, pushing his distraught, 18-year-old daughter, Katima King in a wheelchair.
The dirt bike, which belonged to Bouchard’s brother Brian, had been reported stolen from Bouchard’s Mastic Beach home early on June 22. A friend told Bouchard later that day that he had seen the bike in Bellport, according to prosecutors, and a high-speed chase ensued after the Bouchard brothers spotted the bike in North Bellport.
The chase ended when Bouchard’s Honda Odyssey minivan rear-ended the dirt bike on Montauk Highway. King, 19, died at the scene of the crash. Holmes-Garriques, 20, died at Stony Brook University Hospital.
Varuolo had said he would seek stiffer charges from a grand jury after Bouchard, 27, pleaded not guilty to reckless endangerment in June. Brian Bouchard has not been charged.
A Suffolk County grand jury returned a five-count indictment charging Bouchard with two counts of manslaughter in the second degree, two counts of criminally negligent homicide and one count of reckless driving.
Bouchard, dressed in a white shirt and dark pants, his hands cuffed behind his back, pleaded not guilty to the upgraded charges Monday. Camacho set cash bail for Bouchard at $400,000 or $800,000 bond.
Court papers say that Bouchard made “oral admissions” to police, but they do not describe what he said.
Bouchard’s attorney, John Halverson of Patchogue, said his client was “remorseful” but the crash was accidental. “There is no evidence of intention,” Halverson said. “There was no criminality.”
A spokesman for the Suffolk County district attorney’s office said the grand jury decided on the charges in the Bouchard indictment “after hearing from a dozen witnesses and reviewing evidence from a crash reconstruction and a reenactment of the collision.”
The victims’ family members were furious after Varuolo told Camacho that Bouchard could face 5 to 15 years in prison if convicted. The victims’ relatives want Bouchard to face stiffer charges and penalties, and they also want Brian Bouchard to face charges.
Camacho tried to restore order in his courtroom after the victims’ families exploded during the arraignment. “Stop,” the judge said. “Let the process play out, please.”
About a dozen family members and friends walked out of the courtroom en masse and continued to shout in protest as they walked through the hallways to an elevator.
The pandemonium continued outside the courthouse, where the victims’ family and friends held an impromptu press conference.
“Fifteen years is not enough,” said Holmes-Garriques’ mother Lina Garriques, who said Bouchard should serve a 25-years-to-life sentence. “My son wanted to go to college. He had a future. justice has not been served for my son. Twenty years old. A good kid. I raised him and he did not deserve this.”