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Vehicular manslaughter jury breaks new legal ground

Christopher Campbell, 35, of Sound Beach, leaves First

Christopher Campbell, 35, of Sound Beach, leaves First District Court in Central Islip Tuesday morning, April 14, 2015, after being charged in the October 2014, hit-and-run death of Tracy Mangino, of Miller Place. Credit: James Carbone

The jury that’s trying to decide whether a Sound Beach contractor knew he’d hit and killed a neighbor may be inadvertently setting new legal precedent, the judge presiding over the case said Thursday in Central Islip.

In a note, the jury asked state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho to clarify when exactly a person who’s injured someone with a vehicle is obligated to go to the police.

The jury is deliberating whether Christopher Campbell, 37, is guilty of vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of a fatal accident and other crimes in the Oct. 18, 2014, death of Tracy Mangino, 40.

Prosecutors say Campbell left the scene, knowing his box truck had hit Mangino, because he was drunk and had a suspended license. His attorneys say he was not drunk and had no idea the cargo portion of his truck had hit Mangino when she suddenly bent in front of it.

The law requires motorists to stop at an accident if they “know or have cause to know” someone is hurt, or they must report it as soon as possible — but that time frame is not defined in the law and Camacho said there’s little legal precedent to offer guidance.

Defense attorney William Keahon of Hauppauge argued in court Thursday that if Campbell didn’t realize until the next day or even later that he’d hurt someone, there’s no obligation to report it then. Assistant District Attorney Carl Borelli disagreed.

Camacho told Borelli that his office’s practice of prosecuting people for leaving the scene even if they report it just an hour later was telling.

“Prosecutors in this courtroom every day suggest the obligation [to report] attaches at the time of the incident, and not a day later,” Camacho said. “I’ve come around to thinking the obligation attaches — and ends — at the time of the incident. . . . If he figured it out the next day [that he’d hit Mangino and didn’t report it then], that’s not in violation.”

The jury also told Camacho in its note that it was deadlocked on the vehicular manslaughter charge. The only evidence that Campbell was intoxicated that night was the testimony of his former girlfriend, who said he seemed “giddy” when he got home that night. People he was with did not report him drinking excessively.

Camacho told jurors they were not deadlocked.

“It is much too early to give up on reaching a unanimous verdict” on that count, he told them.

Jurors asked earlier why Campbell lost his license. It was suspended because he had been charged with driving while intoxicated previously, but that information had been kept from jurors because Camacho ruled it was too prejudicial in this case.

He told jurors there was no testimony on that topic during the trial and they were not to speculate about the reason.

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