A Manorville man told a Suffolk judge on Friday that he regretted killing his best friend while driving drunk and hoped to see him again in heaven.
But first, William Christie, 70, will serve 9 months in jail and 5 years on probation for aggravated vehicular homicide and other charges. The unusually light sentence was the result of both a weak case against Christie and compassion that the family of the victim, Michael Demartino, 59, felt for Christie.
Demartino family members didn't attend sentencing in Central Islip, but told a pre-sentence investigation how they felt. Before state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho imposed the sentence, Christie told the judge how he felt.
"He was like my brother," Christie said. "I think about him all the time. . . . I expect and hope to be with him again. I know we will meet again in heaven."
Christie pleaded guilty in May to charges that resulted from the crash on Feb. 26, 2014, near Exit 59 of Sunrise Highway in Manorville. After both men spent the night drinking at Buckley's Irish Pub in Center Moriches, as they often did, Christie lost control of his Jeep and it flipped, prosecutors said.
Neither man was wearing a seat belt. Christie was ejected and Demartino's body ended up behind the steering wheel, leading police to believe at first that Demartino was the driver. Christie was charged after his DNA matched blood found in a part of the car that showed he was the driver.
During his plea, Christie admitted that his blood-alcohol content was more than .18 percent, more than twice the legal standard of .08 percent. Much of his sentence will be served in the county's STOP-DWI facility, which includes substance abuse counseling. He was facing a sentence of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison before a plea.
Camacho said he wished the Demartino family had been in court, both to hear Christie's apology and so that he could acknowledge the family's graciousness toward Christie.
"You were very fortunate to have a friend like him, and a family like his," Camacho said. "The widow has lost all the financial support she had from her husband. She's struggling. And yet she forgives you."