A teenager run over by a drunken driver in a West Hempstead parking lot last year confronted the man at his sentencing in Mineola on Monday, demanding his attention and displaying scars from getting hit by the minivan.
Nicholas Suarez, 15, lifted the front of his sweatshirt and showed his scars to Luis De Jesus, 43, who faced him for the first time since Oct. 27, 2017, when he drove a Dodge Caravan into the boy and his friends, seriously injuring Suarez.
“Do you see this?” an angry Suarez said, looking directly at De Jesus, sitting a few feet away in Nassau Supervising Judge Teresa Corrigan’s courtroom.
Corrigan sentenced De Jesus, who pleaded guilty in September to several crimes stemming from the crash, to 15 years in prison for the most serious charge, first-degree assault.
The judge also ordered De Jesus, who was homeless, to be supervised by the probation department for five years after his release from prison.
De Jesus declined to speak Monday when the court clerk offered him the chance.
Suarez and six friends had been skateboarding at about 5:45 p.m. in a shopping center parking lot on Cherry Valley Avenue in West Hempstead when, Nassau prosecutors said, De Jesus drove in the direction of the boys. Six of the skateboarders dodged the oncoming minivan and escaped unharmed. Suarez wasn’t so lucky, prosecutors said, and was dragged underneath the vehicle.
It was a “miracle” the teenager, who was left unconscious and barely breathing, survived, his mother, Emily Rivera, told the judge.
Rivera, a school nurse, said her son spent more than a month in the hospital with injuries that included a fractured spine, dislocated hips and collapsed lungs. She said his broken jaw had to be wired shut for three weeks.
Nearly a year later, Rivera said, her son continues to be seen by a host of health care professionals including physical therapists.
“Today, I still deal with lots of physical injuries. I deal with leg pain, hip pain, back pain,” the 10th-grader said in an interview outside the courthouse. “I get headaches all the time.”
Skateboarding and playing football — activities Rivera said her son used to enjoy — are now deemed too dangerous.
“I am glad that justice was served today,” said Rivera, before adding that she and her family will continue to pay the price of De Jesus' conduct for years.