A file photo of the Port Jefferson LIRR station. (July...

A file photo of the Port Jefferson LIRR station. (July 16, 2009) Credit: James Carbone

The Long Island Rail Road engineer who was recently suspended on charges that he let a passenger operate a train has hired a high-powered criminal attorney who says nobody ever had control of the locomotive other than his client.

Ronald Cabrera, 40, of Port Jefferson was suspended without pay last month after an eyewitness told police that he spotted Cabrera allowing a passenger apparently to operate a double-decker diesel train as it traveled from Hicksville to Hunterspoint Avenue in Queens on July 2.

Attorney William Keahon of Islandia confirmed Tuesday that he had been hired to represent Cabrera, who has not been charged criminally.

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice has said she is pursuing a criminal case against Cabrera and the passenger, and suggested the charges could include reckless endangerment.

But Keahon said Tuesday he does not anticipate his client's arrest.

"No one had control of the train other than him," Keahon said. "There will be no proof - by picture, by eyewitness, by any other witnesses - that anyone operated, in any fashion, that train other than my client."

The eyewitness to the incident said he observed Cabrera allow the passenger, who has not been identified, into the train cab. He later noticed the engineer standing in the cab away from the controls and the passenger out of view - presumably behind the controls.

The eyewitness also said that the passenger later "bragged" about operating the train, including asking another rider, "How'd I do?"

In addition to Rice's office, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police Department, the MTA inspector general and the LIRR have all launched probes into the incident.

"The investigation is continuing," said LIRR spokesman Joe Calderone, who added that the engineer faces disciplinary sanctions "up to and including termination."

Keahon called his client a 20-year LIRR employee whose father also worked for the agency and who never drew any complaints about his conduct on the job.

"He's very well-respected among the other engineers, conductors and employees of the railroad," Keahon said. "And he's just a great guy and a true professional. This was his life, his future and his livelihood."

One of Long Island's most prominent defense attorneys, Keahon has represented clients such as serial killer Robert Shulman; Evan Marshall, who was convicted of dismembering a retired schoolteacher; and Zachary Gibian, the Hauppauge teen who nearly beheaded his stepfather with a samurai sword.

Keahon most recently won an acquittal for Ocean Beach acting Police Chief George Hesse on charges that he assaulted a man in custody.

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