New York’s highest court has handed a legal victory to former Long Island banana mogul Thomas Hoey, declining to review the reversal of his state court conviction for assaulting his girlfriend in a ruling that could also reduce his sentence on federal drug charges.
The New York Court of Appeals in a brief order issued Wednesday said it would leave intact an appeals court decision that said Hoey’s 2015 conviction for assault and tampering with evidence was flawed because the trial judge excluded Hoey from a key pretrial hearing.
Hoey was sentenced to 1 1⁄3 to 4 years in that case, to be served after he completed consecutive federal sentences of 12 1⁄2 years in the drug case and 5 1⁄2 years for defrauding worker pensions. But the Manhattan District Attorney’s office hedged when asked if they will re-try the state case.
“The office is reviewing its options, in light of the fact the defendant is presently serving a lengthy federal sentence,” said Joan Vollero, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Cy Vance Jr.
Hoey, 48, of Garden City, ran the Long Island Banana Co., a regional produce distributor. He is currently in federal prison in Berlin, New Hampshire, with a release date of Dec. 30, 2028.
In the assault case, the girlfriend refused to testify against Hoey, but relatives described what they believed was a history of abuse. Hoey was also convicted of tampering with evidence for cleaning up blood after an apartment neighbor of the girlfriend called police to report a fight.
In the federal drug case, Hoey pleaded guilty to supplying cocaine at a sex party that ended with the overdose death of a Long Island woman, and trying to cover it up. He was sentenced to 151 months, but if the state assault case isn’t retried the elimination of that conviction will reduce his federal sentencing guidelines and likely lead to his resentencing to a shorter federal prison term.
Hoey’s appeals lawyer, James Kousouros, praised the Court of Appeals for sustaining the reversal of the state conviction and said, “We await a definitive decision from the District Attorney’s office as to whether a retrial will occur.”
From prison, Hoey filed two pro se petitions in federal court last month, seeking to withdraw his guilty plea in the drug case and arguing that he is entitled to a shorter sentence. He said he has participated in drug programs and math courses, and taught classes in guitar and for commercial drivers licenses.
Since going to prison, Hoey said, he has “developed profound respect for the law” and has “developed into a responsible person.”