Case dropped against New York limo driver in deadly winery crash

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 26, 2016 1:09 PM

By Laila Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York judge on Wednesday threw out all charges against a limousine driver accused of negligent homicide in a crash that killed four women on a Long Island wine-tasting tour last year.

Suffolk County Court Judge Fernando Camacho ruled the criminal indictment issued against Carlos Pino in March was based on an improper grand jury presentation, and dismissed the case.

Prosecutors' instructions to the grand jury, and their question-and-answer period with the group, during the indictment process prejudiced the jurors against Pino, Camacho wrote in his decision to dismiss.

Brendan Ahern, Pino's attorney, said the defendant and his family "remain deeply heartbroken over the horrific tragedy," but that they were relieved by Camacho's ruling. "This indictment should never have been obtained," Ahern said.

The Suffolk County District Attorney's office, which prosecuted the case, was not available for comment.

Pino, while driving a group of eight women on July 18, 2015, was making a U-turn with his limousine when the vehicle was slammed into by a pickup truck.

Passengers Lauren Baruch, 24, Brittney Schulman, 23, Amy Grabina, 23, and Stephanie Belli, 23 were killed and four others were injured in the incident on Long Island's East End, where the friends were visiting wineries.

Pino was charged with four counts each of negligent homicide and assault, as well as failure to yield the right of way, reckless driving and other traffic violations.

The truck driver, Steven Romeo, of Peconic, was charged with driving while intoxicated on the day of the crash. Romeo's case is ongoing.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Bernard Orr)