A 71-year-old Greenport man charged with drunken driving in a crash that killed a vineyard employee had a blood-alcohol level that was more than twice the legal limit, a Suffolk prosecutor said.
John A. Costello's blood-alcohol level was 0.17 percent after the Dec. 6 crash on Route 25 in Greenport, Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Miller said Tuesday following Costello's arraignment in Southold Town Justice Court.
Costello, owner of a marine contracting business and a former village trustee, told police he drank two beers before the crash at Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. in Peconic, according to prosecutors.
The case remains under investigation, and Miller said it will be determined later whether the charge will be upgraded from driving while intoxicated, a misdemeanor.
Defense attorney William Keahon entered a not-guilty plea on his client's behalf.
Afterward, he questioned the accuracy of the blood-alcohol test results and said he intends to have Costello's blood samples independently tested. Under state law, a person with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent is considered intoxicated.
Southold Town Justice Rudolph H. Bruer set bail at $250. Costello's next court date is Jan. 30.
Police said Costello was driving a 2008 Chevy pickup east on Route 25 at about 7 p.m. when he crossed a double yellow line into oncoming traffic and struck a 2006 Honda.
The Honda's driver, Oseas Maneli Ramirez, 22, of Peconic, was treated for minor injuries. He was charged with driving without a license, Southold police said.
Authorities identified the passenger in the Honda as Miguel Bartolone, 34, also of Peconic. He died from his injuries at Stony Brook University Hospital.
Costello, who broke his neck in the crash, wore a brace and used a walker Tuesday.
Keahon told reporters his client wasn't at fault in the wreck. "It was a stormy, rainy night; my client was going less than the speed limit," he said. "He never left his lane of traffic."
Sister Margaret Smyth, who heads the North Fork Spanish Apostolate, said the victim supported a wife and son in Guatemala.
He headed the crew in charge of pruning and harvesting the vines at Pellegrini Vineyard in Cutchogue, the company said.
"This has had a great impact all around . . . because he was generally a nice guy," Smyth said.
Smyth said the apostolate is raising money to help the family with funeral costs and "invest in this child's future, because he no longer has a dad."