Indictment dropped for limo driver who made turn linked to deaths

A Long Island judge has tossed a criminal indictment against a limo driver who prosecutors say made a risky U-turn that killed four young women attending a bachelorette party last year.

Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho threw out the indictment of limo driver Carlos Pino, 59, on Wednesday. He ruled that a grand jury presentation left jurors either confused or unwilling to follow the law, Newsday reported Wednesday.

Pino was indicted on criminally negligent homicide charges in March, in connection with the July 19, 2015, crash in Cutchogue. Alleged drunken driver Steven Romeo, 55, was arrested after the crash but didn’t face upgraded charges.

Pino’s limo was carrying eight women who had just left a vineyard as part of a bachelorette party when he made a U-turn near Depot Lane in Cutchogue, prosecutors said.

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Prosecutors say Pino’s sight was blocked by a car turning in front of him, but the limo driver opted to make the U-turn anyway — right into the path of Romeo’s pickup truck.

The crash killed Brittney Schulman, 23, and Lauren Baruch, 24, both of Smithtown; Stephanie Belli, 23, of Kings Park; and Amy Grabina, 23, of Commack.

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota alleged Pino “failed to take any precaution or any action to make sure he could safely enter the westbound travel lanes.”

Camacho ruled prosecutors didn’t meet the standards set by a state Court of Appeals case dismissing a criminally negligent homicide indictment against James McGrantham, a Brooklyn limo driver in a 2006 fatal U-turn case, Newsday reported.

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The grand jurors were either confused about what that 2006 case meant, or indicted Pino regardless, Camacho ruled.

“Pino was attempting to make a U-turn at an intersection where U-turns are permitted, the same thing that countless other limousine drivers had regularly and routinely done at that intersection in the past,” Camacho wrote, according to Newsday. “In my view, Pino’s actions in this case are substantially less blameworthy than McGrantham’s, and while his actions may not have been wise, they were not criminal.”

Spota vowed to appeal Camacho’s decision.

“Pino was driving a vehicle he knew or should have known could never make a safe U-turn under the circumstances,” Spota’s office said in a statement released Wednesday. “Justice Camacho’s decision appears to ignore this critical and distinguishing fact. Simply because others made the turn without harm did not make doing so safe or lawful when done blindly as Pino did.”

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