A Southold electrician admitted in court Friday that he was drunk when he drove head-on into a minivan last year in Greenport, killing the driver.
Glenn Zaleski, 36, pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide and aggravated driving while intoxicated. In return for his plea, state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho said he would sentence Zaleski to no more than 5 to 15 years in prison. Zaleski faced a maximum of 8⅓ to 25 years behind bars.
Zaleski had a blood alcohol content of 0.23 percent — almost three times the legal standard of 0.08 percent — when his pickup truck drifted across the center of Route 48 and hit a minivan driven by Youfeng Yang, 51, of Flushing, Queens. She was killed and her six passengers were injured after leaving a lavender farm on their way home.
Camacho said he took into account that Zaleski, since his arrest, has taken stock of himself and mentored other inmates charged with DWI at the jail. Camacho said jail staff have told him that Zaleski "has been a tremendous asset" in counseling others.
Defense attorney Anthony Rutkowski of Southampton said his client — also his friend — is remorseful every day and does not want Yang and her family to be forgotten.
"We can't take away this tragedy," Rutkowski said. "He faces it every day."
Assistant District Attorney Raymond Varuolo declined to comment afterward.
Rutkowski said Zaleski relied on alcohol after struggling with personal issues, and hopes he can help others avoid doing what he did.
"He's making a difference, telling them about the dangers of the choices they make," Rutkowski said. "He's done this all on his own."
Zaleski, who had been convicted of driving while intoxicated in 2009, told investigators after the crash in July 2018 that he had consumed six to eight beers at a family party and then slept in his truck before driving. Prosecutors said then that his blood alcohol content suggested he'd had a lot more than that to drink.
Camacho did not set a date to impose sentence.