Sentencing was held for two drivers who pleaded guilty to separate deadly DWI crashes in Nassau. NewsdayTV’s Macy Egeland reports. Credit: Anthony Florio; Howard Schnapp; Newsday

A Freeport man apologized Monday in an emotional outburst in court before being sentenced to up to 18 years in prison for causing the crash that killed three members of a family leaving a Sweet 16 party in 2022.

Dante Lennon, 23, became so distraught before he was sentenced that State Supreme Court Justice Tammy Robbins of Nassau County paused the Mineola hearing as the defendant loudly howled and sobbed, his face twisted with grief.

“I am so sorry, I am so sorry,” Lennon cried before putting his forehead on the defense table.

Lennon pleaded guilty on March 5 to aggravated vehicular homicide, three counts of second-degree manslaughter, three counts of second-degree assault, three counts of third-degree assault and driving while intoxicated. Robbins sentenced him to 6 to 18 years in prison.

     WHAT TO KNOW

  • A Freeport man apologized Monday for causing the crash that killed three members of a family leaving a Sweet 16 party in 2022.
  • Dante Lennon, 23, was sentenced to 6 to 18 years in prison after pleading guilty in March to aggravated vehicular homicide and other charges.
  • The mother of the party organizer and two other women were killed in what prosecutor Katie Zizza described as “a Sweet 16 turned nightmare.”
The scene of the triple fatal accident across from the...

The scene of the triple fatal accident across from the Inn at New Hyde Park on May 23, 2022. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Lennon acknowledged he was speeding down Jericho Turnpike in New Hyde Park at twice the 35-mph speed limit in his Mercedes-Benz when he crashed into a black Lincoln Town Car carrying Sweet 16 partygoers leaving The Inn at New Hyde Park.

The mother of the party organizer, Marlene Luu, 66, died in the impact, along with Hoa Ho, 68, and Tu Nguyen, 41, in what prosecutor Katie Zizza described as “a Sweet 16 turned nightmare.” Three men in the front of the Town Car were injured, and Lennon was also hurt in the crash.

Prosecutors asked Robbins to sentence Lennon to up to 21 years in prison. Zizza told Robbins that Lennon had told officials preparing his sentencing report that he had consumed just two shots that night and didn’t feel intoxicated. Five blood-alcohol tests, she said, showed otherwise.

Zizza said Lennon was so impaired that he said he didn’t see the Town Car. First responders at the scene later heard him say, “Why did he turn on the red light?” even though there was no traffic light at the intersection where the crash occurred. Lennon later called Zizza’s comments false.

The defendant wept at the defense table as he looked at Peter Hyunh, the son of Ho and nephew of Luu, describing the devastation the collision had caused his family.

Peter Hyunh, the son of Hoa Ho, after Dante Lennon...

Peter Hyunh, the son of Hoa Ho, after Dante Lennon was sentenced Monday. Credit: Howard Schnapp

“The anguish and torment that has befallen our family is beyond measure,” Hyunh said, later adding that the deadly crash “has shattered our lives.”

Hyunh said Ho and Luu immigrated to the United States from Vietnam in their 20s ito build fulfilling lives for their families. The women — childhood friends who later became sisters-in-law — were looking forward to retirement.

Hyunh said future generations will be deprived of the hugs, laughter and stories the three women shared with their loved ones.

“We seek justice not just for the departed but for the living who will carry this for the rest of our lives,” Hyunh said.

Lennon’s attorney, Robert Schalk, turned from the defense table to the gallery to offer condolences to Hyunh when Lennon let out a pained howl, his face crumpled with emotion. Lennon later said he has tried to kill himself and suffers from night terrors and hallucinations as a result of the deadly crash.

“If it makes it even, I will kill myself, just tell me,” Lennon said, looking at Hyunh. “I can’t live with the pain. I am so sorry.”

Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly said Lennon was driving his Mercedes at a high speed while intoxicated on Jericho Turnpike when the Mercedes broadsided the Town Car and rear-ended a parked Dodge Ram pickup truck.

Donnelly called Luu and Ho “loving mothers who were cornerstones of their families.” She said Nguyen was a wife and mother to a young child.

“They were tragically taken from their loved ones when Dante Lennon speeded down Jericho Turnpike drunk and slammed into their Town Car, killing them and injuring three other passengers,” Donnelly said.

“A Sweet 16 party — an exciting milestone marked by family and friends — became a nightmare for these families, who continue to struggle with the pain, grief, and loss of these beloved women.”

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