A Suffolk judge rejected a defense argument that a Farmingville man was merely an unsophisticated drug dealer who shot at a police officer out of panic, as he sent the defendant to prison for 23 years.
But State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho said he also gave weight to the many letters he got describing Nicholas Hansen, 23, as a thoughtful young man who has resolved to help others like him who are struggling with drug addiction. He noted he could have imposed consecutive sentences for attempted murder, weapons and drug charges that would "ensure he never got home. I thought long and hard about that. I will not do that."
Hansen said afterward: "Thank you, your honor, for giving me another chance."
Assistant District Attorney Beth Creighton told Camacho Hansen deserved 45 years. His actions were more than just a "poor choice," but instead were "an utter and blatant disregard for the law," she said.
He had been selling cocaine in ever-increasing amounts to an undercover officer and brought a loaded handgun to the final deal on Aug. 11, 2011, in a gas station parking lot at Exit 61 of the Long Island Expressway. When undercover officers moved in to arrest him, Hansen bolted out of his car with the gun and yelled, "Just kill me!"
He and State Police Senior Investigator Kevin Ring fired at each other from 10 feet away. Hansen missed, and got shot four times. "Fortunately, he didn't kill Investigator Ring, but it wasn't for lack of trying," Creighton said.
Defense attorney William Keahon of Hauppauge said tapes of earlier drug deals showed his client never displayed any taste for guns or violence. He said Hansen, who had never been arrested before, shot because he thought he was being robbed.
Just as important, Keahon said, was Hansen's maturation in jail since his arrest. He has mentored and counseled young people, urging them to avoid his choices, he said.
"He has a sincere desire to give back," Keahon said. "I ask for a sentence that doesn't destroy hope."
He asked Camacho to recall how Hansen collapsed in grief when he was convicted.
"He tried to crawl into my lap like I was his mother," Keahon said. "He's not the rough and tough criminal like you're used to sentencing."
But Camacho said Hansen was no neophyte. "Most drug addicts hurt no one but themselves," the judge said. "They don't go to sell large amounts of cocaine with a loaded weapon on their lap."
The evidence showed Hansen's actions were calculated and designed to flush out whether he was selling to undercover police, Camacho said.
"He was a drug dealer, a sophisticated drug dealer," Camacho said. He acknowledged that Hansen suffered gunshot wounds, but added that "the reason he was shot was totally his responsibility."
Both Hansen and Ring are lucky they survived, Camacho said.
"By inches, he [Ring] almost didn't come home. And for that, there must be consequences," Camacho said.Creighton said she was disappointed in the sentence, but said the judge considered all aspects of the case carefully.
Keahon said he thought the judge struggled with how to deal with a "lost soul" who committed an unacceptable act.
"I think it was very difficult for the judge to reach what he believes was an appropriate sentence," Keahon said.