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Impaired taxi driver gets 7 years for injuring 2

Police said Jose Gonzalez was high on drugs

Police said Jose Gonzalez was high on drugs when he struck and seriously injured two pedestrians before slamming into a building in 2009. Photo Credit: Handout

A Hempstead taxi driver who admitted he was high on drugs last summer when he slammed his cab into a Bay Shore woman and her son on Fulton Avenue, seriously injuring them, was sentenced Friday to seven years in prison.

Jose R. Gonzalez, 24, admitted he had smoked two cigars stuffed with marijuana and had snorted cocaine before he went to work on July 13, 2009, the day his cab struck Dilenia Jimenez, 40, and her son, Eli Grullon, 21, as they were loading packages into their car, according to Nassau prosecutors.

The mother and son were standing behind their car, which was parked on Fulton Avenue, when Gonzalez drove his white 1992 Mercury into them.

The impact severed one of Jimenez's legs above the knee, said prosecutor Brendan Ahern of the Vehicular Crimes Bureau. With Grullon on top of taxi's hood, Gonzalez drove onto the curb before smashing into a building. A metal pole inside the building pierced Grullon's right arm, limiting his use of his right hand, Ahern said.

The victims, who Ahern said are undergoing rehabilitation, did not come to Nassau County Court on Friday.

"Gonzalez showed absolutely no regard for anyone's safety or life that night as he wreaked havoc in Hempstead by using his taxi as a weapon," Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice said in a news release.

Gonzalez admitted he used drugs before the start of his shift, which began at 6 p.m. A police toxicology report indicated that Gonzalez had used cocaine throughout the night.

Before the crash, prosecutors said Gonzalez had picked up at least 25 passengers, all while he was high on drugs.

Initially, Gonzalez was charged with two counts of second-degree assault and driving while ability impaired by drugs, Ahern said. Two of those charges were upgraded to aggravated vehicular assault, each carrying a maximum sentence of 5 to 15 years in prison.

Prosecutors agreed to allow Gonzalez to plead guilty to two counts of second-degree assault and driving while ability impaired by drugs in exchange for a fixed prison term.

"This guarantees that he would serve the full seven years," Ahern said.

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