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Lawyer asks for charges dismissed in deadly Farmingdale crash case

Nassau and Suffolk police respond to the scene

Nassau and Suffolk police respond to the scene of a two-vehicle accident in Farmingdale on Saturday, May 10, 2014. The crash happened shortly after midnight on Conklin Street near Staples Street, police said. Credit: Jim Staubitser

A lawyer for the 18-year-old accused in the deaths of five teenagers in an alleged drag race wants the criminal charges dismissed, and says the Farmingdale crash was the fault of an alcohol-impaired teenage driver who died in the wreck.

An attorney for Cory Gloe has asked a judge to dismiss manslaughter, assault, criminally negligent homicide and other charges against his client in the May 10, 2014, crash.

It took the lives of driver Tristan Reichle, 17, and his passengers Jesse Romero, 18; Carly Lonnborg, 14; Noah Francis, 15; and Cody Talanian, 17. All of the deceased either attended Farmingdale High School or once had.

The Nassau district attorney's office opposes the motion, but said in court papers this week that Reichle "would also bear criminal liability" for the crash if he had survived. Prosecutors said, however, that "does not absolve" Gloe of his responsibility for starting and being part of the deadly drag race.

"The evidence presented to the grand jury clearly showed that the risks of street racing were apparent and foreseeable to [the] defendant, and he chose to race not just despite those risks, but because of those risks," their court filing said.

Court papers show Reichle had a blood alcohol content of 0.07 percent.

A Department of Motor Vehicles spokesman said Thursday a 17-year-old driver with a 0.07 blood alcohol content would be legally impaired and could be arrested and face a minimum one-year license revocation.

A toxicology report obtained by Newsday showed Reichle also had used marijuana, but it wasn't immediately clear whether the drug was present at a level that would have caused impairment at the time of the crash.

Gloe's attorney, Stephen LaMagna of Garden City, also said in the defense's dismissal motion that there was no credible evidence of a drag race.

The filing said that besides Reichle being an inexperienced driver who was impaired by alcohol, documents provided by authorities showed all four passengers who died in Reichle's car "were also impaired by drugs and/or alcohol." Gloe's attorney said authorities found a crack pipe, an unspecified amount of heroin and a bottle of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky either on Reichle's passengers or in the car.

"This evidence proves that it was Reichle himself who caused the tragic accident that ended his life and the life of his teenager passengers," LaMagna wrote.

The defense filing added that Reichle's sudden turn into oncoming traffic had nothing to do with the way Gloe was driving.

Prosecutors have alleged Gloe goaded Reichle into a drag race while both drivers were stopped at a red light at Route 110 and Conklin Street, and that the two cars raced for about three-quarters of a mile before Reichle lost control.

Authorities said Reichle's car then crossed into oncoming traffic and slammed into a sport utility vehicle, seriously injuring two other people. Gloe's car didn't make contact with Reichle's car or the SUV and he wasn't arrested until after a January indictment.

The defense also claimed Gloe's charges should be dismissed because the grand jury never heard that Reichle was impaired by alcohol or about the contraband that was either in the car or with the underage passengers.

But prosecutors said in court papers that grand jurors did hear about Reichle's alcohol impairment. Their motion didn't address the defense's statements about other substances found in Reichle's car or with passengers.

Maureen McCormick, chief of the district attorney's Vehicular Crimes Bureau, said Thursday in a statement responding to the defense's claims about the crash's cause that grand jurors "chose to indict the defendant after considering all of the contributing factors in the crash, including the behavior of both drivers who were alleged to be racing each other."

The defense also claimed there was no proof speeding took place and those allegations were based on opinions of "impaired teenagers" in Gloe's car.

Prosecutors countered that at least one of Gloe's passengers said Reichle didn't seem to want to race, but still accepted Gloe's challenge. They also said at least one of Gloe's passengers said he would let Reichle catch up, before speeding away again, and that video from nearby businesses showed the cars traveling at high speed.

Family members of the deceased either couldn't be reached Thursday or declined to comment.

LaMagna wouldn't comment on court papers, but called the deadly crash "a tragedy of immeasurable proportions." Gloe, of Farmingdale, is out on bail.

"My client and his family constantly mourn the loss of his friends and are continuing to pray for their families," LaMagna said.

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