A Suffolk judge told a Northport man his behavior was "unconscionable" Wednesday before sentencing him to 2 to 6 years in prison for hitting a highway worker and leaving him to die in the road.
"What we have here is a total absence of responsibility, a total absence of respect for human life," state Supreme Court Justice C. Randall Hinrichs told John Pappias, 47, before he imposed the sentence.
Pappias, who managed his family's popular Northport Sweet Shoppe, had pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a fatal accident. He hit Victor Schultz, 49, of Massapequa Park, who was on a paving crew working on Route 25A near Sunken Meadow Parkway at 1:35 a.m. on Oct. 28, 2011.
Pappias also pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated in August while he was free on bail.
Several of Schultz's family members told Pappias and Hinrichs of the damage done by the death.
"Vic was to have turned 50 this year," said his brother, Daniel. "No slaps on the back. No celebrations. He had a huge heart. He was generous to a point of fault. He forgave people."
Schultz's cousin, John Duffy, noted that Pappias had previously hit a 15-year-old boy on his bike and had two DWI arrests before killing Schultz.
"I have a right to be angry with John Pappias," he said, concluding that he "must have been intoxicated when he struck my cousin."
Hinrichs said Duffy's conclusion "must be correct," even though any evidence of intoxication was long gone by the time Pappias was arrested in January.
Before then, Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Santomartino said Pappias hid and repaired his truck. "He fixed it in the hopes that no one would ever discover what he'd done," Santomartino said.
Pappias bowed his head as he listened, then spoke briefly.
"I'm very sorry for what happened," he said. "There's nothing I can do to bring it back. I'm sorry."
Defense attorney Eric Naiburg of Central Islip said that what his client "did on that night was a terrible thing. He said it was logical to assume Pappias had been drunk, but he said his client insisted he wasn't. He merely believed he had not hit a person and then made the mistake of not returning to the scene, Naiburg said.
That's what hurts, said Carol Schultz, an aunt of the victim.
"What if you would have stopped?" she said in court. "You could have done something. You left Victor in the road like a bag of garbage, and for that alone you should rot in hell."