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Former fugitive sentenced to 12 years in fatal hit-run

Sebastian Barba leaves the Nassau County Court in

Sebastian Barba leaves the Nassau County Court in Mineola on Tuesday, March 18, 2014. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A man who went on the run after a Westbury hit-and-run crash that killed an 80-year-old retired teacher is heading to prison more than a decade later.

Sebastian Barba, now 36, pleaded guilty Tuesday to assault and leaving the scene of the 2001 fatal accident. He asked the victim's family to forgive him before Nassau County Judge Angelo Delligatti sentenced him to 12 years in prison.

But Maura Beede, the niece of victim Jean Renison, said Barba was a coward who treated her beloved aunt like "less than an animal." Renison was crossing the street on the way to see her hairdresser in February 2001 when Barba ran over her with his Cadillac.

Then a young stockbroker-in-training, he left the crash scene before fleeing to Ecuador.

Barba helped run his family's construction materials business, married and became the father of three before authorities arrested him.

In November 2012, police in Panama took Barba off an airplane after Interpol learned he was traveling between the Dominican Republic and Panama for a business trip.

Then authorities brought Barba, a citizen of the United States and Ecuador, to New York to face up to 25 years to life in prison if found guilty of a depraved-indifference murder charge.

Prosecutors said Tuesday that they never tried to extradite Barba from Ecuador, saying the nation's constitution bars the extradition of nationals.

But Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice said in a statement that justice caught up with Barba in the end, after his "callous disregard for life and law."

At sentencing, Barba expressed remorse and told Renison's family he hoped their hearts would heal. "Please forgive me," he said.

Beede called her late aunt a lovely, intelligent woman who had been a role model for nieces and nephews.

Authorities have said Renison was still alive after Barba's car first hit her. But Barba stepped on the gas and crushed Renison under the tires while a witness screamed at him to stop, according to authorities.

Beede said she resented that Barba could appeal whether authorities violated his speedy trial rights, a claim by the defense that Delligatti ruled against.

"Eleven years went by. Did he turn himself in? No. He was caught and brought to justice," Beede said.

Barba's lawyer, John Kase, said later he'll appeal the case with that same claim, which a Rice spokesman said her office will continue to oppose.

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