Marine's sentencing in fatal DWI postponed
A Nassau judge postponed sentencing Thursday for a man convicted of striking and killing two brothers on Hempstead Turnpike while he was driving drunk, after his lawyer said equipment problems at the police crime lab may have affected his case.
Attorney Gregory Grizopoulos, who represents James Farr, 34, of Garden City, filed a motion asking County Judge David Sullivan to set aside a verdict of criminally negligent homicide.
On Wednesday, Nassau officials revealed new problems at the lab related to drug testing. In December, a national accrediting group revealed multiple problems at the lab, including a failure since 2007 to calibrate a blood-alcohol pipettor, an instrument used for measuring and dispensing liquids.
Thursday, Grizopoulos, of Rockville Centre, said the lab's woes raise questions about Farr's blood-alcohol test. Testing showed Farr had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.18 - three times the legal limit.
Jurors did not know about the lab problems because Farr's trial ended in November, before the accreditation group's report, Grizopoulos said.
"If we knew that there were problems, we would have brought it up," Grizopoulos said.
Carole Trottere, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Kathleen Rice, said the accreditation group "did not cite any problems or issues with the calibration of the gas chromatograph used to test the blood of James Farr, or anyone else. The maintenance issue regarding the pipettor was resolved when an independent agency certified that it too was functioning properly."
Trottere said Grizopoulos conceded to the jury that Farr was drunk.
Grizopoulos also said prosecutors failed to prove Farr, an ex-Marine, engaged in risk-taking behavior on top of being intoxicated.
Brothers Thomas and Joseph Occiogrosso, of Riverhead and East Meadow, respectively, died after Farr plowed his sport utility vehicle into them on the turnpike in East Meadow on Aug. 23, 2008. He is free on $175,000 bond pending sentencing.
Chris Munzing, a spokesman for Rice, said, "We are not going to comment on Grizopoulos' claim that we failed to prove criminally negligent homicide."
William Kephart, president of the Criminal Courts Bar Association of Nassau County, said he doesn't foresee an "avalanche of motions" to set aside verdicts based on the lab problems.