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Police: Drunken driver arrested in crash that hurt Suffolk cop

Salvatore Distefano, 29, of Central Islip, is led

Salvatore Distefano, 29, of Central Islip, is led out of the Fifth Precinct Monday morning in Patchogue to face charges of driving while intoxicated, assault and with a violation of New York State's "Move Over Law," police said. (March 4, 2013) Credit: James Carbone

The driver of a car that struck a Suffolk police officer's patrol car, injuring him as he secured the area Sunday night in Patchogue while an earlier fatal accident was investigated, was arraigned yesterday on several charges, including driving while intoxicated, police said.

Officer Brian Smales of the Highway Patrol Bureau was airlifted to Stony Brook University Medical Center with head, neck, back and leg injuries Sunday evening, police said. He was treated and was later released.

The driver, Salvatore Distefano, 29, of 923 Kirkland Ct., Central Islip, was treated for facial cuts at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in East Patchogue. He was then arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated, third-degree assault and with a violation of New York State's "Move Over" law.

At Distefano's arraignment Monday in Central Islip, a prosecutor said the misdemeanor charges may be upgraded after testing is completed on a blood sample from the suspect.

Distefano's attorney entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf, and District Court Judge Ann Spelman set bail at $5,000 cash or $10,000 bond.

Distefano told investigators he had one beer, and said at another point he had "two drinks" after getting off work about two hours before the accident, according to a police document filed with the court.

"I don't remember what happened. I don't remember the accident. I'm not drunk. I had one drink," the document quoted Distefano as saying at one point.

Police said Distefano failed a field-sobriety test. Defense attorney Gary David Kessler of Jericho noted outside court that "the officer is out of the hospital, and that's a good thing."

The "Move Over" law, enacted in 2012, requires drivers to slow down and move over one lane, when possible, while passing a stopped emergency vehicle. It is designed to help protect police officers, firefighters and other emergency workers from being injured by vehicles.

Police said that Smales' cruiser was stopped, with emergency lights flashing, on the right shoulder of westbound Sunrise Highway between North Ocean Avenue and Waverly Avenue when it was struck shortly after 7 p.m. Smales had stopped to help secure the scene for detectives investigating a fatal accident that had occurred at 1:32 a.m. Sunday.

In that accident, Colin Garbett, 22, of Patchogue, was killed when the 2000 Chevrolet Malibu he was driving crashed -- and, police said, he was ejected.

Two women in the car were injured.


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