A public safety officer who accidentally ran over and killed a drunken pedestrian who had been seeking alcohol treatment at a Long Island hospital was cleared Monday of vehicular manslaughter charges but was convicted of driving while intoxicated.
Robert Core, 43, faces up to a year in jail after being convicted of aggravated DWI in the July 2011 accident, which happened while he was responding to a report about children trespassing at a town pool.
Nassau County Judge Jerald Carter announced the verdict after a non-jury trial. The judge ruled the pedestrian, Eddie Albert Cotto, failed to obey traffic laws crossing Hempstead Turnpike outside the Nassau University Medical Center at about 11:35 at night.
The judge noted Cotto, 50, had sought admittance to an alcohol treatment program at the hospital hours before he was killed. Cotto, of Lindenhurst, drank a pint of cognac, two beers and perhaps additional alcoholic drinks, the judge said. Assistant District Attorney Michael Bushwack said several hours after Cotto had been admitted for treatment, he left the hospital and later was struck and killed. It’s unclear whether Cotto left against medical advice.
Hospital spokeswoman Shelley Lotenberg declined to comment on Monday.
The judge noted the victim’s blood-alcohol reading was 0.26 percent, more than triple the legal limit for driving, although there was no evidence he had been driving.
Core, who was an 11-year veteran of the Hempstead town public safety department, had a blood-alcohol reading of 0.18 percent. Police officers at the scene said Core appeared glassy-eyed and had a faint smell of alcohol on his breath when he was arrested.
The judge ruled that while Core was guilty of driving while intoxicated, he could not be held legally responsible for the pedestrian’s death.
Core, who on Monday was in a wheelchair from an unrelated accident about a month ago, according to his attorney, declined to comment after the judge’s ruling. His conviction meant he was automatically fired from his $70,000-a-year job with the town, his attorney said.
“It was a tragedy for everybody, but we truly believe what the judge found was consistent with the evidence and the law as it is in New York,” attorney Lloyd Nadel said.
Cotto’s fiancee, Diane Ware, said she was outraged by the judge’s ruling.
“Yeah, the man had issues of his own, but he was seeking help,” she said. “It is absurd. The man was sober when he left our house. He was completely sober, and all he wanted was to get the help that he needed because he was very stressed out.”
She said she is not considering legal action against the hospital.
“I don’t want anything,” she told reporters outside the courtroom. “I want my Eddie, that’s all I want.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.