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Long IslandSuffolk

Prosecutor: Joseph Perez drunk at time of Hampton Bays fatal crash

Donna Sartori, who was killed by a drunken

Donna Sartori, who was killed by a drunken driver, with her nephew in this undated photo. Photo Credit: Sartori family

It wasn't until a drunken Riverhead man hit his third car of the night that he killed someone, a Suffolk prosecutor told a jury Friday in Central Islip.

Joseph Perez, 31, is charged with aggravated vehicular homicide, second-degree manslaughter and other charges in the Jan. 5, 2014, death of Donna Sartori, 56, of Middle Island. She was killed about 4:20 a.m. outside a Hampton Bays deli while delivering newspapers.

Assistant District Attorney Maggie Bopp told jurors and state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho in her opening statement that Perez had a blood-alcohol level of 0.23 percent -- almost three times the legal limit -- after drinking a bottle of Hennessy Cognac at home and then drinking some more with friends at the Dream nightclub in Hampton Bays.

When the club closed, Bopp said Perez and his friends got into his Ford F150 pickup and he immediately drove into the car in front of him. Everyone got out, words were exchanged and then Perez got back in his truck and took off, "leaving his license and his friends behind," Bopp said.

He headed west on Montauk Highway, where Sartori was delivering papers to businesses less than two miles away. Perez hit one parked car, kept driving, and then "smashes into Donna Sartori's car, sending her flying," Bopp said, smacking the lectern to emphasize each impact.

"She had absolutely no idea who or what was going to hit her," the prosecutor said.

After the crash, Perez was taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead with a scraped leg, authorities said.

Defense attorney George Duncan of Central Islip urged jurors to keep an open mind and be wary of witnesses whose testimony may make things seem worse than they were.

"This isn't about winning," he said. "This is a very serious case. There are no winners."

Sartori's husband, Anthony Guggino, said that was true for him.

"When she died, half of me died," he said outside court. "It's tough. She was the best friend in this whole world."

Even worse, he said the couple's Shih Tzu, Bam Bam, was lost in the crash, too. Bam Bam liked to go to work with Sartori.

Bopp played a recording of a 911 call from a witness to the fatal crash.

"Where's the woman who was in the car?" the man asked as he ran to the scene. "She delivers newspapers -- oh God, there she is."

Sartori was unconscious and bleeding heavily, the man said.

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