Charges against a Suffolk man responsible for driving drunk and starting a chain reaction crash on the Long Island Expressway that killed Nassau County police officer Joseph Olivieri have been upgraded, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced Wednesday in a press release.
James Ryan, 26, of Oakdale, was arraigned by a grand jury Wednesday on new charges of aggravated vehicular homicide, manslaughter in the second degree, aggravated vehicular assault, assault in the second degree, aggravated Vehicular Assault in the first and second degrees, aggravated criminally negligent homicide, criminally negligent homicide, and driving while intoxicated. These charges are in addition to the original charges of vehicular manslaughter in the second degree, driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, reckless endangerment, leaving the scene an accident, speeding, and impeding traffic.
Just before 5 a.m. on October 18, 2012, Ryan was driving his Toyota Camry eastbound on the LIE after leaving a Manhattan club when he struck a livery cab driver at a high rate of speed, according to Rice. The cab driver was able to steer his car off the road, but Ryan fled the scene despite sustaining significant front end damage to his vehicle.
Rice said, before passing the next exit, Ryan slammed on his brakes, coming nearly to a complete stop before an off-duty New York Police Department detective who was driving behind Ryan slammed into the rear of Ryan’s vehicle. The detective’s vehicle spun around violently and came to a rest facing westbound. The officer suffered a fractured sternum, multiple fractured ribs, and heart palpitations.
Ryan's vehicle spun into the concrete barrier, perpendicular across the HOV lane before officer Olivieri, the first responder on the scene, blocked off the detective’s car in the right lane with lights and sirens before crossing the roadway on foot to Ryan’s position in the HOV lane, according to Rice.
A black SUV driving eastbound in the HOV lane swerved but struck Ryan’s vehicle and Olivieri.
Ryan’s blood-alcohol content at the scene was between .13 and .14 percent, according to Rice.
“This defendant had every opportunity to prevent this tragedy, from not driving drunk in the first place to pulling over after the initial crash,” Rice said. “Yet his selfishness dictated every decision, and now a dedicated police officer and family man is dead. These upgraded charges are indicative of the violence of these crashes and the incredible damage James Ryan has caused. My office will aggressively prosecute this case to ensure that the memory of Joseph Olivieri is honored and justice is done.”
Ryan remains free on bail and is due back in court April 29. He faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted of the top charge of aggravated vehicular homicide.
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