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Suffolk DA opposes defense motion for special prosecutor in Rodriguez death case

AnneMarie Drago on Jan. 14. Drago is charged

AnneMarie Drago on Jan. 14. Drago is charged with running over and killing Evelyn Rodriguez. Credit: James Carbone

Suffolk County prosecutors filed papers Wednesday opposing a defense motion calling for the removal of District Attorney Timothy Sini and his office from the case of a woman charged with running over and killing anti-gang activist Evelyn Rodriguez. 

 Attorney Stephen Kunken of Commack, who represents defendant AnnMarie Drago, of Patchogue, had said in the motion that the district attorney’s office should be barred from prosecuting Drago because Sini and Rodriguez had “an extremely close and personal relationship.” Kunken said.

Acting Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho did not hold a hearing on that motion Wednesday as  had been expected, but instead scheduled a hearing for June 4. It is not clear if Camacho will then rule on the motion or on a defense demand for documents and communications that might illustrate the nature of the relationship between Sini and Rodriguez, Kunken said.

Drago is charged with criminally negligent homicide in the death of Rodriguez and faces lesser charges related to the destruction of a memorial to Rodriguez's daughter, Kayla Cuevas. Rodriguez, 50, was run over Sept. 14 after a dispute about the memorial on a Brentwood cul-de-sac.

Sini was the Suffolk County Police commissioner when Kayla was murdered, allegedly by members of MS-13, in September 2016. Kunken said there was nothing inappropriate about Sini reaching out to the mother of a murder victim, or the personal and professional relationship  that developed in the months after the slaying. Rodriguez, who became an anti-gang activist, eventually advised Sini and served on his transition team after he was elected district attorney.

But Kunken said Sini, in his capacity as district attorney, may now have a conflict of interest, and a special prosecutor should be appointed in the case.

Prosecutors have said Drago was trying to sell her mother's home and was irritated by the memorial to Kayla set up in front of the house. She felt the collection of cards, candles, photos, signs, balloons and an elaborate floral arrangement on a table where the  bodies of Kayla and her friend had been found two years earlier would discourage home buyers, prosecutors said, so she stuffed as much of it as she could in a garbage can.

Rodriguez and Kayla’s father,  Freddy Cuevas, Kayla's dad, rushed to the scene after a neighbor told them that Drago had destroyed the memorial.

Rodriguez and Cuevas saw Drago and her boyfriend preparing to leave for a weekend upstate, prosecutors said, and demanded their property back. Cuevas warned Drago that if she moved her car she'd hit Rodriguez, prosecutors said. Drago knocked Rodriguez down and ran over her, prosecutors said. Drago remained at the scene.

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