At 6 a.m. on July 5, 2010, police say Dave...

At 6 a.m. on July 5, 2010, police say Dave Richards, 30, of Hempstead, was driving his a 2002 Mercedes-Benz drunk and the wrong-way on the LIE near Exit 24 when he crashed head-on into an airport shuttle driver, John Rey, 64, of Greenlawn. Rey later died from his injuries. Credit: Vic Nicastro

The drunken driver who killed a fellow motorist in a wrong-way wreck Independence Day weekend last year has been sentenced to 3 1/2 to 10 1/2 years in prison, attorneys in the case said Thursday.

Judge Gregory L. Lasak in Queens Criminal Court imposed the punishment on Dave T. Richards, 30, of Hempstead Thursday after he pleaded guilty last week to second-degree manslaughter in the death of John L. Rey, 64, of Greenlawn.

Both vehicles -- Rey's Ford airport shuttle van and Richards' 2002 Mercedes-Benz ML500 -- burst into flames after the July 5 crash on the Long Island Expressway in Flushing, Queens, between exits 24 and 25 eastbound. Neither driver had passengers in the head-on crash.

Richards had a suspended license at the time, prosecutors said.

Rey sustained a torn abdomen, crushed leg bones, and other internal injuries. He died 18 days later.

In an interview, Rey's son-in-law Christopher J. Cassar of Huntington, a criminal lawyer, said he hopes publicity from Richards' sentencing will deter drunken drivers.

"You can never replace a life -- a loved one like this -- no matter how much jail time someone is sentenced to. It's not going to bring back John Rey," Cassar said. "John's not going to be there for Christmases, the birthday parties, the weddings, the communions. He's not going to be there for his grandchildren and for his children. It's devastating. It really is."

Richards' defense attorney, Leonard Ressler of Kew Gardens, Queens, said after the sentencing that the wreck had left his client unable to remember what happened.

"Mr. Rey is dead, and this guy is permanently damaged. His right leg is gone. His right arm is semi-functional and his mind is in and out," Ressler said. "He's just mortified about everything."

Cassar said one of Rey's two daughters, Courtney Rey, 33, of Greenlawn, spoke at length at the sentencing, in part to remind Richards of the crash and the damage it did to her family.

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