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Truck driver pleads guilty in fatal crash

Sanitation truck driver Robert Moore leaves a Riverhead

Sanitation truck driver Robert Moore leaves a Riverhead courtroom after his arraignment. (March 11, 2010) Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

The man whose garbage truck crushed a Fort Salonga woman to death as she drove to work pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor Friday in Suffolk County Court.

Robert Moore, 51, of Ridge, admitted that he didn't engage an extra axle on the Jet Sanitation Services truck before it careened down a hill on Pulaski Road in East Northport with no brakes. The extra axle should have been used because the truck was loaded with 33,000 pounds of garbage, authorities said.

Moore pleaded guilty to third-degree assault and promised to cooperate with prosecutors in the criminal case against Jet, based in Islandia.

Judge James Hudson promised to sentence him to 3 years probation.

In court, Moore said he had warned Jet of brake problems several times before the June 2009 crash that killed the mother of two.

Assistant District Attorney Raymond Varuolo, who said he'd talked with the family of victim Deborah Shavalier, 56, said the plea was an "appropriate resolution."

Christopher McGrath of Mineola, the Shavalier family attorney, called on Jet to take responsibility for its role in the death, as Moore did.

"There was a high risk not only for my client, but the public in general" because of Jet's shoddy maintenance, McGrath said. A civil suit is pending, but will not proceed until the criminal cases are resolved, he said.

An attorney for Jet Sanitation, Ray Perini of Hauppauge, did not respond to requests for comment. He said last year the brakes did not need replacing and denied the company didn't replace them for financial reasons.

Jet and Moore were indicted on charges of criminally negligent homicide. If Jet is convicted, it faces fines of as much as $19,175 plus compensation to the Shavalier family.

Moore's attorney, Frank Fineo of Woodbury, said his client hasn't worked since the crash because of neck and back injuries.

"He's suffered emotionally, as well, although it's nothing like the victim's family," Fineo said. "He feels horrible."

Shavalier's husband, David, moved to Colorado largely because of his wife's death, McGrath said. They have a son in high school and another in college.

"She saw what was happening, and she had the pre-impact terror of knowing she'd never see her husband and children again," McGrath said. "My client is destroyed. He's not getting over it any time soon."

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