A Suffolk judge on Wednesday threw out the indictment charging a limo driver with the deaths of four young women in a Cutchogue crash last year, ruling that the indictment was based on a flawed grand jury presentation.
Here are five questions and answers to help explain what happened in court:
Q: Why did prosecutors charge the limo driver, Carlos Pino, with criminally negligent homicide?
A: They felt that Pino created an unjustifiable risk when he tried to make a U-turn on Route 48, even though he couldn’t see the pickup driven by Steven Romeo coming toward him.
Q: Why did the judge, Fernando Camacho, throw out the charges?
A: There were a few reasons why he did that. One was that Pino’s actions didn’t rise to the “moral blameworthiness” the law requires for such a crime. In other words, even if the attempt to make a U-turn was a bad idea, the judge is saying that doesn’t necessarily make it a crime — particularly because a U-turn is legal there. Failing to perceive a risk is not the same thing as creating a risk, he argues.
Q: Are those the only reasons?
A: No. The judge also said prosecutors didn’t do enough to help grand jurors understand the law on criminally negligent homicide. Prosecutors left the grand jury so confused or misled about the law that the indictment it produced could not stand, the judge said.
Q: So is that it? The case against Pino is closed?
A: For now, at least, it is. The district attorney’s office says it will appeal the judge’s decision, but there’s no guarantee it will be successful.
Q: Do the victims and their families have any recourse?
A: They can sue Pino in civil court and hope to collect damages. Pino’s criminal defense attorney said the victims have a strong case in civil court. But unless the district attorney’s appeal is successful, no one will be held criminally responsible for these deaths.