First responders at the scene of the fatal multivehicle crash on...

First responders at the scene of the fatal multivehicle crash on Sunrise Highway in East Massapequa on Aug. 6. Credit: Paul Mazza

The defense attorney for a Lindenhurst man arrested in an East Massapequa crash that killed four people, while acknowledging the event was "tragic beyond words," disputed the evidence against his client and said grand jury action on the case was expected Thursday. 

Michael Deangelo, 32, was arrested last week on 18 charges, including three counts of vehicular homicide, vehicular manslaughter, assault, driving while impaired by drugs and reckless driving following the Aug. 6 crash on Sunrise Highway.

Police said Deangelo was under the influence of cocaine and fentanyl, and a vehicle recorder showed he was driving 120 mph leading up to the crash that killed Patrice Huntley, 60, of Flushing and his children Jeremiah, 10, and Hannah, 13, of Uniondale.

“Not every crash is a result of criminal liability. It is tragic beyond words. He’s presumed innocent and no evidence presented to presume otherwise. I’d ask for a collective hesitation and let the court system and due process to work and allow us to challenge the evidence,” said Karl Seman, the Garden-City based attorney for Deangelo.

Prosecutors said they were pursuing a fourth homicide charge following the death Saturday of Huntley’s 6-year-old granddaughter, Chantel Solomon. The family were going out for ice cream and were stopped at a red light when they were struck by Deangelo’s Hyundai from behind, authorities said.

Huntley’s 18-year-old stepdaughter, Brienna Peoples, was also critically injured. Hospital officials had no additional information about her condition Wednesday or the condition of an injured 14-year-old also in Huntley's car.

The grand jury began hearing evidence Tuesday and must decide whether to indict Deangelo by Thursday, or, by law, authorities must release him from custody, Seman said.

Nassau County district attorney officials said the investigation is ongoing, but otherwise declined to comment.

Deangelo was injured in the crash and was arraigned from a hospital bed Friday, where bail was set at $500,000 cash or $1 million bond.

"The first time he learned of the fatalities was at his bedside hospital arraignment and all he could do was sob,” Seman said.

Attorneys met in court Tuesday without Deangelo, who is still hospitalized. Judge Anthony Paradiso ordered Deangelo’s driver’s license suspended and continued bail.

Seman questioned the police account, including Deangelo’s statements to police, the speed of the car and whether he was using any drugs at the time of the crash.

Seman said Deangelo was trapped in the vehicle for at least 45 minutes with two fractured legs, including a compound fracture, a broken kneecap, a broken ankle and a collapsed lung. He also had bleeding in his esophagus and suffered cranial fractures, sinus damage and a bruised heart, Seman said.

In court documents, a Nassau County detective said they found needles and a pipe in Deangelo’s car. Police also said that Deangelo admitted using heroin, GHB, suboxone and other drugs and admitted using drugs the day of the crash.

Deangelo was twice intubated on a ventilator, Seman said, questioning how he was able to make statements to police.

“He couldn’t breathe and somehow the detective took a detailed statement of admission from the defendant. It's believed that statement was used to obtain a warrant to search his blood and vehicle,” Seman said. “The law provides if the information used to get the search warrant was false, the warrant is void and any search as a result are excluded.”

Seman also questioned if Deangelo’s four-cylinder Hyundai was able to reach 120 mph at the time of the crash after driving a short distance from a nearby gas station. He said the front of the car where the recorder was located was destroyed.

Seman also said Deangelo could have had fentanyl in his system from pain medication administered at the hospital. He said drugs like cocaine and fentanyl can be detected in the bloodstream up to three weeks after use and may not have impaired his driving at the time of the crash.

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