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Attorney: Crash victims contributed to their own deaths

James Farr, 33, of Garden City, leaves the

James Farr, 33, of Garden City, leaves the courtroom with his lawyer, Greg Grizopoulos, following opening arguments at the Nassau County Courthouse. (Oct. 20, 2010) Credit: Sean M. Gates

Former Marine James Farr was drunk the night he slammed his sport utility vehicle into two brothers jaywalking on Hempstead Turnpike in East Meadow in August 2009, his lawyer told a jury Tuesday. But alcohol did not play a role in the deadly crash, the attorney said in his summation at Farr's manslaughter trial in Mineola.

The pedestrians, Joseph Occhiogrosso, 28, of East Meadow, and Thomas Occhiogrosso, 27, of Riverhead, were drunk and walked against traffic signals, factors that contributed to their own deaths, said Farr's attorney, Greg Grizopoulos of Rockville Centre. He said the collision was an unavoidable accident that would have happened regardless of whether Farr was drinking.

"Those pedestrians shouldn't have been there. They took a risk. They got hit. They were killed. And, it had nothing to do with the alcohol James drank that night," Grizopoulos told jurors in Nassau County Court Judge David Sullivan's courtroom.

But Nassau prosecutor Matthew Lampert said the Aug. 23 collision occurred because Farr was too drunk to see the Occhiogrosso brothers crossing Hempstead Turnpike and too slow to react. Farr's blood alcohol level, taken four hours after the crash, was .18, more than twice the legal limit of .08.

A sober driver would have seen the Occhiogrosso brothers, both wearing white T-shirts and both more than 6 feet tall, walking across the well-lit road, Lampert said.

Not only did Farr fail to slam on the brakes of his 2005 BMW, Lampert said, but he drove for more than 250 feet after he struck the men who were crossing Hempstead Turnpike near Conti Square Boulevard in East Meadow at 4:15 a.m.

"There is a human being stuck on the windshield, bleeding to death," he said. "He was too drunk to stop the car."

Farr is charged with three counts of first-degree vehicular manslaughter, two counts of second-degree manslaughter, two counts of second-degree vehicular manslaughter, two counts of criminally negligent homicide, two counts of driving while under the influence of alcohol and aggravated driving while under the influence of alcohol. If convicted of the most serious charge, Farr faces up to 5 to 15 years in prison, Lampert said.

In an interview, the victims' brother, Paul Occhiogrosso, 32, of Westbury, said the family, including Thomas' 3-year-old daughter, has to go on living without Joseph and Thomas .

"The thing that hurts me the most is that he only gets 15 years" if convicted, he said. "The rest of our family's life is different. My niece has no dad."