A Sound Beach contractor pleaded guilty Friday to hitting and killing a neighbor walking on their street, hours after the jury in his case indicated it could not reach a verdict on vehicular manslaughter and other charges.
In return for the pleas to leaving the scene of a fatal accident and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho agreed to sentence Christopher Campbell, 37, to 1 1⁄2 years in jail. If he’d been convicted of all charges at his trial, he faced a maximum of 8 1⁄3 to 23 years in prison.
Campbell, during questioning by Camacho in Central Islip, admitted that he had reason to know his box truck had hit Tracy Mangino, 40, as she walked along North Country Road after a night of drinking on Oct. 18, 2014.
Campbell initially had been charged only with leaving the scene of a fatal accident, but last year Suffolk prosecutors also charged him with vehicular manslaughter, arguing that witnesses who were with him that night could establish that he was intoxicated.
But during the trial, only one of those witnesses, a former girlfriend, testified that Campbell was intoxicated because he was “giddy” when he came home that night. None of the people with him in three bars said he drank excessively or seemed drunk.
Jurors deliberated 14 hours over three days, but told Camacho in a note they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict. They said afterward the final vote was 11-1 for conviction, but the holdout was unmovable.
Even though Campbell pleaded guilty to the original crime with which he was charged, everyone said the result was worth the effort.
“He’s getting something, which is better than nothing,” said Mangino’s daughter, Serena Mangino, 17, of Miller Place.
“Part of it was hearing him say that he knew he killed my daughter,” said the victim’s father, Michael Mangino, of Ronkonkoma. “I will now have the opportunity to go home and grieve my daughter, which I have not been able to do.”
He thanked police and prosecutors for doing their best.
“The tremendous effort put forth by this office is justified because of the satisfaction of having the victim’s immediate family see that he finally admitted it,” said Assistant District Attorney John Scott Prudenti, chief of the vehicular crimes bureau.
Defense attorney William Keahon of Hauppauge said the plea deal would not have happened without the trial exposing weaknesses in the case.
“There are really just cases where it takes this kind of effort to get to a just result,” he said.
Jurors also seemed relieved there was a resolution after a case in which the victim, defendant and most civilian witnesses were either drunk or accused of being drunk.
“That was a cast of characters,” one juror said.