A motorist testified he was startled one night two years ago when a car blasted by him in the turning lane on Montauk Highway in Lindenhurst, doing at least 70 mph.
Carlos Gomez of Copiague testified at the trial of Michael Grasing, 34, of West Babylon. Grasing is charged with second-degree murder, accused of driving recklessly and at high speed with a blood-alcohol content four times the legal limit on June 24, 2012, when he hit a sport utility vehicle driven by Brittney Walsh, 18, of Lindenhurst. She died when her SUV tumbled sideways down the road for a full block.
Gomez's account of Grasing's driving before the crash is the second one that the Riverhead jury and state Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen have heard. Both Gomez and his recollection are different from the other witness, the late John Patsalos, 46, of Lindenhurst.
Most important, Gomez was available for cross-examination by defense attorney William Keahon. Patsalos, on the other hand, died a few weeks after the crash, so jurors have only heard police testimony of what he reported at the scene. And unlike Gomez, Patsalos did time in prison for killing a man during a gas station robbery and hitting a security guard with his car while fleeing another robbery.
During questioning by Assistant District Attorney Marc Lindemann, Gomez said he was returning home from Taco Bell on Montauk Highway that night. He said he had just pulled away from the traffic light at Wellwood Avenue in his lowered Acura RSX when a silver Nissan sped past.
"My car shuddered back and forth," Gomez said. "It was driving pretty fast -- I'd say maybe 70 to 80 mph."
Gomez said he pulled over shortly afterward to have some of his food, and when he resumed driving he soon came upon the crash scene at South 13th Street.
Gomez's description is somewhat different from what officers say Patsalos told them. Patsalos said Grasing was driving about 100 mph, weaving in and out of traffic and running red lights. Gomez said there was no other traffic and he didn't see Grasing run red lights.
During cross-examination, Keahon focused on variations in different statements Gomez gave to police. Gomez's later statements estimated Grasing's speed as high as 90 mph, and in his first statement he said Grasing was wholly in the center turning lane.
Gomez said yesterday that Grasing had been straddling the line between the left lane and the turning lane.