Prosecutors have charged the Queens man accused of leaving the scene of a fiery crash last month that killed a father and his two children on the Southern State Parkway with aggravated vehicular homicide and other new charges.
But the attorney for Oniel Sharpe Jr., 24, insisted that his client "was not intoxicated" and not guilty of any crime related to the July 12 crash.
Prosecutors say that instead of helping the only survivor of the crash -- Lucnie Bouaz-Ostane, the driver's wife -- Sharpe, of Springfield Gardens, let the victims burn to death, tossed a tequila bottle from his wrecked BMW X5 into the woods and left the scene with a friend, Demetri Stewart, 23, of Jamaica, Queens.
District Attorney Thomas Spota said Bouaz-Ostane tried desperately to save her family and asked Sharpe and Stewart, who were standing nearby, for help. "She pleads for their help and they do absolutely nothing," he said.
Sharpe pleaded not guilty to crimes resulting from the crash that killed Ancio Ostane, 37, and his children, Andy, 8, and Sephora, 4, of St. Albans, Queens. Assistant District Attorney Patricia Brosco said their minivan burst into flames after Sharpe hit it from behind at high speed while driving drunk.
Brosco said Stewart drove Sharpe around until the alcohol in his bloodstream dissipated somewhat, but four hours later his blood-alcohol level was still 0.06 percent when police finally found him, she said.
"His breath still smelled of alcohol," Brosco said. "And mouthwash."
Forensic toxicologists estimate his blood-alcohol level was 0.12 percent at the time of the crash, over the 0.08 percent legal threshold, she said.
The new charges against Sharpe include the aggravated vehicular homicide charge, as well as manslaughter and 23 counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument for having almost two dozen fake credit cards hidden in his BMW, Brosco said. She asked state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho to hold Sharpe, who had been free on a $500,000 bond, on bail of $1 million cash or $2 million bond. He faces a maximum of 10 2/3 to 32 years in prison on the crash-related charges.
Defense attorney Jonathan Manley of Central Islip said the indictment was "padded" with the credit card charges.
"When we cut through all the distraction, there is no likelihood of conviction on these charges," Manley said. "He is not the monster they have portrayed him to be."
Camacho set bail at $500,000 cash or $1 million bond.
He also increased the bail for Stewart, to $150,000 cash or $300,000 bond, although his charges remained the same -- leaving the scene of an incident, hindering prosecution and other charges. Brosco said Stewart was speeding in a rented Chevrolet Camaro behind Sharpe, and he whisked Sharpe from the scene after the crash in Bay Shore by Exit 41S.
Stewart's attorney, Jeffrey Cohen of Kew Gardens, Queens, said there's no legal basis for the charges because he can't be charged for leaving the scene of a crash he didn't cause.
At a news conference, Spota described the crash as "a collision of two separate worlds. The world of the Ostanes, whose lives revolved around their family, their church and prayer, and the lives of the defendants who lived solely to indulge their appetites for fast, high-performance cars and parties that were fueled with alcohol and drugs."
Both Spota and County Executive Steve Bellone called for the State Legislature to increase the penalty for leaving the scene of a fatal accident to 5 to 15 years in prison. The maximum now is 2 1/3 to 8 years.
Prosecutors also charged Sheon Richards, 25, of St. Albans with reckless endangerment and various traffic infractions. They said Sharpe and Stewart, who didn't know Richards, were chasing him at high speed on the Southern State when the crash happened. Camacho let Richards go with no bail after clarifying that Richards stayed at the scene and cooperated with police.
Sharpe's cousin, Courtney Sharpe, 24, of Springfield Gardens, was charged with trying to use two of the fake credit cards before the crash at a gas station to buy a $5 snack. Prosecutors asked Camacho for $200,000 bail.
"I'm almost speechless," said his attorney, James Froccaro of Port Washington. "Charges related to a $5 credit card fraud and they're asking for $200,000?"
Camacho set bail at $10,000 cash or $20,000 bond.