The decision Wednesday to dismiss criminal charges against the limo driver whose actions last year led to the deaths of four women was the latest blow for the victims’ families to absorb.
Hours after state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho told them he was dismissing the criminally negligent homicide charges against Carlos Pino, 59, of Old Bethpage, mothers and fathers of the women in the limousine still felt the sting.
They encouraged the Suffolk district attorney’s office to appeal the decision, and if it’s upheld, they said the law itself should be changed. Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota said later his office would appeal.
The July 18, 2015, Cutchogue crash killed Amy Grabina, 23, of Commack; Stephanie Belli, 23, of Kings Park; and Lauren Baruch, 24, and Brittney Schulman, 23, both of Smithtown. Four other women in the limousine were injured.
Parents said the past 15 months have been miserable and the pain would have remained even if Camacho had not thrown out the charges. But losing the chance to hold Pino criminally responsible hurt, they said.
“It’ll never go away,” said Nancy DiMonte, mother of crash survivor Joelle DiMonte. “When it [the criminal case] is closed, it’s difficult. It’s a difficult process for all of us.”
“I’m very disappointed,” said Paul Schulman, Brittney’s father. “I’m hoping the district attorney’s office can bring this to an appellate court. The laws have to change, so this doesn’t happen again to some other family.”
The rawness of their emotion was apparent in the courtroom, when several parents told Camacho they thought he was wrong. One mother called Pino an unprintable name and as he left the courtroom said, “I hope he [expletive] dies.”
Steven Baruch, Lauren’s father, disagreed with Camacho’s legal reasoning and said he also hoped a higher court would review the case.
“We’ve been pretty clear about what our feelings are,” he said. “That’s all we can hope for at this point.”
DiMonte asked for the public’s help if necessary to persuade legislators to change the law to make it easier for prosecutors to bring charges in such cases.
In this case, Camacho ruled that Pino’s attempt to make a U-turn on Route 48 in Cutchogue may have been unwise without a clear view of oncoming traffic, but it did not rise to the level of a crime.
Several parents also objected to how they have been portrayed in the past year by online commenters, some of whom have called the families “whiners” or worse, for filing civil suits and speaking out about the crash.
“Any person out there who is talking about ‘whining’ — let them lose a daughter,” Schulman said. “They can talk to me then. I’m never going to have that father-daughter dance at a wedding. I’m not going to hold a grandchild. Let them lose that, then talk to me about whining.”