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Teenager's message to father's killer at sentencing: Be the best dad you can be

Olivia Mooney, 19, reacts after Cosmin Florea, of

Olivia Mooney, 19, reacts after Cosmin Florea, of Baldwin, was sentenced in a plea deal to 2 1/2 to 7 years in prison for vehicular manslaughter at Nassau County Court in Mineola on Tuesday, May 12, 2015. Mooney's father, Donald Mooney, of Lynbrook, was killed by Florea, who admitted to being drunk and under the influence of marijuana when the fatal-hit-and run occurred in Port Washington on Aug. 15, 2014. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The daughter of a Lynbrook man who died in a drunken driving crash told her father's killer Tuesday she forgave him and to be there for his own teenage daughter "as my father cannot be here for me."

"The guilt that you are enduring for the mistake you made the night you hit my dad will stay with you forever," Olivia Mooney, 19, told Cosmin Florea in Nassau County Court. "Therefore I find it unnecessary to add to that pain. Do the best you can to be there for your daughter."

Calling her dad, Donald Mooney, her "superhero" and "best friend," the victim's daughter said she wouldn't hold a grudge for the Port Washington crash that ended her father's life last summer.

"My father raised me to be just as honest and graceful as he was. With that said, Cosmin, I want you to know that I forgive you," the Stony Brook University sophomore told the defendant.

Florea, 34, of Baldwin, admitted in a March guilty plea that he knew he'd hit a pedestrian -- and not a deer as he first claimed -- when driving his car drunk and under the influence of marijuana before fleeing the scene.

"I will forever have a connection with Donald Mooney, one that I wish was under better circumstances," Florea said to the victim's family before a judge sentenced him to the maximum 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison.

"I'm not sure if I ever will forgive myself, nor do I expect you to forgive me," he said. "While I realize that these words may come too late, I do want to say from the bottom of my heart that I am sorry."

The Aug. 15 crash happened shortly before midnight when Florea's Ford Fusion hit the victim -- who was working as a Port Washington limo company dispatcher -- as he crossed Main Street on a coffee run.

Mooney's son, Nicholas Stack, 24, told Florea in court that because of him he wouldn't be able to share his joy with his father when he someday got married and became a father himself.

Family also remembered Mooney, 49, as a loyal, kind-hearted man who raised two children as a single father. He worked a second job to help pay his daughter's college tuition and bought a two-family home so he could be there for his mother in her later years.

Nassau County Judge Helene Gugerty admonished Florea for cowardice while sentencing him to prison for convictions including second-degree vehicular manslaughter and leaving a fatal accident scene.

"Your choices have tragically decimated two families," she told Florea.

An NYPD officer stopped Florea's car in Queens about 45 minutes after the crash and he said he "hit a deer in Port Washington" when questioned, authorities said.

Prosecutors said tests showed Florea was drunk and had used marijuana.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Bushwack said in court that under terms of Florea's guilty plea he'd get the maximum sentence by law, but his office wanted tougher penalties -- a message acting District Attorney Madeline Singas stressed after court.

"It's time for the legislature to act . . . so that judges have the option to sentence these offenders to higher sentences. Enough," she said.

She is pushing for sentences of a maximum of 5 to 15 years in prison for cases such as this one.

Defense attorney Michael DerGarabedian has described Florea as a churchgoing father who works as a graphic designer, has no prior criminal record, and was filled with remorse for his actions that night.

Turning to face the Mooneys, Florea apologized. He singled out Mooney's mother, Patricia, and the victim's children, telling them he thought every single day about what he'd done and wished he could take it back.

"What makes this even more personal for me is that Mr. Mooney was in the same situation as myself, supporting his family any way that he could," Florea said. "I think of my own daughter, who will be entering college herself in a few years, and how I will not be there for her in her time of need."

Florea also pledged to take part in programs for alcohol and drug offenders in prison, and said he'd advocate against drunken driving when he came home.

After court officers led him away in handcuffs, Florea's 14-year-old daughter broke away from her own family to approach Mooney's daughter on the other side of the courtroom.

"Excuse me, I just want to say I'm sorry," Jazmin Florea told Olivia Mooney.

"We think about you all the time," Mooney replied.

Then through tears, the two daughters hugged.


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