A Nassau judge is expected to rule Monday on whether a Hempstead Town public safety officer drove drunk while on duty a year ago, causing the death of a pedestrian who was crossing Hempstead Turnpike.
Judge Jerald Carter is to decide Monday afternoon if Robert Core, 43, is guilty of drunken driving and vehicular manslaughter in the July 2011 death of Eddie Cotto, 50, of Lindenhurst. If Carter finds Core guilty of the top charge against him, he will face 5 to 15 years in prison.
Cotto, 50, of Lindenhurst, was crossing in the middle of the turnpike when he was hit 40 feet west of Franklin Avenue, near Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow. Police records say that Cotto was an "elopee" from the hospital -- meaning that he left against medical advice.
A nearby store's surveillance video shows a pedestrian crossing north to south who was just a few steps from the south curb when he was struck.
Core continued driving with Cotto clinging to the hood and windshield for more than 150 feet before Core stopped and Cotto fell to the pavement, police said at the time.
In his closing argument before Carter on Friday, prosecutor Michael Bushwack said Core was on duty at the time of the crash, heading to investigate complaints of kids trespassing at the town-owned Wolcott Pool in Levittown. Bushwack said Core, who told police he had 40 ounces of Colt 45 malt liquor with his dinner about five hours earlier, registered .17 percent blood alcohol content at the time of the crash, more than twice the legal limit.
"He endangered the same people he is paid to protect," Bushwack said.
But Core's defense lawyer, Lloyd Nadel of Mineola, said Cotto came out of nowhere, and there was no way Core could have stopped in time. Cotto had a blood-alcohol reading of .26 himself, more than three times the legal limit to drive, as he crossed the street, Nadel said during his closing argument.
Cotto's fiancee, Diane Ware, said last year that Cotto had gone to the hospital the day of the crash to get help dealing with stress.
"It was dark, the light was green, the pedestrian was not in the crosswalk, and he [Cotto] did not look where he was going," Nadel told Carter.
Core, a single father who had earned $70,343 a year, has since been fired, a town spokeswoman said.
Westbury attorney Greg Grizopoulos handled a similar case two years ago, in which a Garden City man was accused of driving drunk on Hempstead Turnpike and killing two brothers, who were also intoxicated.
Grizopoulos said to convict Core of vehicular manslaughter, the prosecutor must prove not only that Core was drunk and Cotto died, but also that Core's drunkenness either led to Cotto's death or caused it.
"They will have to show that if he had not been intoxicated, the accident could have been avoided," Grizopoulos said. The man Grizopoulos defended, James Farr, was acquitted of manslaughter but convicted of vehicular manslaughter.