A state appellate court upheld the manslaughter conviction of a Riverhead man who killed a father of three during a police chase, but reduced his sentence, finding it was "excessive."
John Licausi Jr., now 55, crashed into a car driven by Scott Foster, 46, of Manorville, killing him in March 2008. Licausi sped off while police were questioning him about stolen lawn equipment he was trying to sell. Licausi hit Foster's car broadside while police chased him in Farmingville.
He was convicted in 2010 of aggravated vehicular homicide and other charges. Suffolk County Court Judge James Hudson ruled that because Licausi had a lengthy felony record, he was eligible to be sentenced to more than the usual maximum of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison. Hudson gave him the maximum possible sentence of 25 years to life.
During arguments last month before the Appellate Division Second Department in Brooklyn, Licausi's appellate attorney, Richard Herzfeld of Manhattan, said the conviction should be thrown out because it relied on impermissible evidence, such as improperly obtained blood evidence showing Licausi was on cocaine. Herzfeld said Hudson's remarks during and before the trial -- once referring to Licausi as a "sociopath" -- showed bias by the judge.
In its decision, the court said Hudson ruled properly on various legal issues before and during the trial.
"Under the circumstances here, although the police did not strictly comply with the procedures for obtaining a court order to compel the defendant to submit to a chemical blood test," the court said, "there was substantial compliance," so Hudson was right to allow it into evidence.Still, the court said Hudson's sentence was excessive and reduced it to 18 years to life "in the interest of justice." During the arguments in Brooklyn last month, Justice Reinaldo Rivera said Hudson's sentence was "too heavy-handed" for a vehicular fatality.
The Suffolk district attorney's office declined to comment on the decision.
Herzfeld called the decision "disappointing," despite the reduced sentence. He said he hoped New York's Court of Appeals would take the case.