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Long IslandNassau

Austin Soldano, driver in accident that killed Zachary Ranftle, jailed on $50G bail in separate case

Police say 12-year-old Zachary Ranftle, in an undated

Police say 12-year-old Zachary Ranftle, in an undated family photo, was struck and killed while on his way to school in Valley Stream by Austin Soldano, 29, of Seaford, who is shown leaving Nassau District Court on Monday, December 15, 2014. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

A Nassau judge ordered the man who police said was driving with a suspended license last week when he struck and killed a 12-year-old Valley Stream boy held on a $50,000 cash bail or bond Wednesday in a separate drunken-driving case.

Austin Soldano, 29, of Seaford, appeared for a conference hearing before County Court Judge Angelo A. Delligatti stemming from Soldano's Aug. 10 arrest on felony DWI in Long Beach -- an arrest that resulted in another judge suspending Soldano's license.

Assistant District Attorney Christopher Casa requested that Delligatti increase Soldano's bail to $50,000 because there had been a "substantial change" in the circumstances, citing Zachary Ranftle death and Soldano's other alleged traffic infractions. The original bail, set by a Long Beach judge, was $5,000 bond or $2,500 cash.

"It demonstrates a pattern of conduct that amounts to deliberate and blatant disregard for other people on the road, the instructions of police and the lawful orders of this court," Casa said.

Soldano's defense attorney Robert J. Brunetti first argued against the bail increase, but then asked the judge to only increase it to $5,000 cash, saying his client was not a flight risk.

Casa said when Soldano's license was suspended, he "physically turned over his license."

Brunetti said last week Soldano "was unaware his license was suspended." Asked Wednesday how he could have been unaware, Brunetti said: "I can't comment on that."

In the Dec. 11 accident that killed the boy, Soldano was charged with second- and third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle, both misdemeanors, and operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license, a violation. He was released on bail of $10,000 bond or $5,000 cash.

Zachary, a seventh-grader, was walking to Memorial Junior High School when he was hit by Soldano's SUV.

Before the hearing, Soldano said he was "very sorry" when asked if he had anything to say to Zachary's family. They did not respond to a request for comment.

In August, Long Beach police filed charges against him, including the felony DWI charge and resisting arrest, court records show. Casa said "a police officer tried to get him to stop after observing him driving through more than one red traffic signal."

Brunetti said the district attorney wants to "merge" the DWI case and the misdemeanor charges in Zachary's case, a move he said would be "very prejudicial."

Shams Tarek, spokesman for the district attorney, declined to say whether the cases would be tried together, but said: "These two incidents are irrevocably intertwined. He was driving with a license that was suspended due to the other incident."

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