Nassau County Judge Jerald S. Carter had cautioned the family of Dean LaLima that no sentence he could impose could fill the “hole in their soul” at their loss Thursday morning. Still, LaLima’s father John and his sister pleaded through cracked voices and teary eyes to impose the maximum allowable sentence on Raymond Kalenka, who stood in court in handcuffs to be sentenced for a hit-and-run that claimed the Williston Park resident’s life one early morning in 2012.
In August the court had found Kalenka, 46, guilty of running LaLima over with his car near the intersection of Syracuse Street and Broad Street in the early morning hours of Aug. 12, 2012. as the Grimald’s pizzeria manager laid in the street and then tampered with his car to obscure evidence of the event.
“That’s where you ran away,” Carter said of Kalenka’s actions upon returning to the scene to observe that he had run over LaLima’s body, which was still in the middle of the roadway.
Kalenka faced between two-and-a-half to seven years in prison. Carter, stating that two to seven years at an upstate penal facility was “not warranted” due to the lack of Kalenka’s criminal history, imposed concurrent sentences of one-and-a-third to four years, saying to LaLima’s family that “I feel your loss” at the aspect of a parent burying their child as the judge had witnessed his own father bury Carter’s brother and holding up letters written to him from both Kalenka and LaLima families which he said he had read.
“I don’t think the judge was right,” John LaLima said, “one-and-a-third to four is not adequate. Until this state turns around and starts punishing these people, you’re going to continue to have it. They know that if you leave the scene and get caught days later, the most they can charge you with is a slap on the wrist. The system has to be changed. They destroyed our lives, they destroyed his own family’s lives, plus they destroyed people that (Dean) knew. Had this occurred in Florida, this man would be looking at 20 to 30 years for leaving the scene of a fatality.”
LaLima’s father had spoken about what the “devastation has done” to the family at the loss, how the 41-year old had purchased cellphones for both his parents in order to keep in contact with them.
“This carelessness,” he said in court of Kalenka’s actions, calling for the lifetime revocation of Kalenka’s ability to own or operate a vehicle. “He ruined the lives of young kids... from this there is no remorseful shame. What he did was fabricate a story of lies. Had he called for help maybe my son would still be alive. Kalenka gave him zero chance by leaving.”
The elder LaLima told the court that there were only two reasons why Kalenka could have taken the demonstrated actions: impairment of judgement or that he was a “useless piece of (a) human being,” telling Carter “he showed no pity, he showed no remorse, you should show no remorse.”
LaLima’s sister, Robyn Elaine Kosulias, of Mineola, was equally virulent, saying that her brother “loved the community and they loved him; his absence is beyond understanding” and that Kalenka chose “not to be a decent man,” brushing off the impact caused by running over LaLima’s body as that of a speedbump when none exist in Williston Park.
She also related stories of her children’s sleepless nights reportedly caused by the tragic way in which LaLima perished.
“I know that Kalenka had a lapse in judgement that day,” Kosulias said, “his choice that night was not appropriate and it ruined our family and it ruined his own family. No matter what the judge gave him in there... it won’t bring Dean back.”
In court, Kalenka’s defense attorney, Brian Davis, said that “I just don’t see the relevance” of apologizing on the stand. “My client never said he went over a speedbump” and that “he’s losing it all” regarding his future life and prospects.
Davis again mentioned the autopsy report on LaLima’s body which showed a .26 blood alcohol level “that played a part in this” and the injuries sustained to his body as not consistent with an impact of a bumper of a vehicle, indicating in Davis’ arguments that LaLima was laying in the road when he was hit.
“I think the sentence was fair,” Davis would later say when approached for comment. “I believe (Kalenka) when he says that a day doesn’t go by that he doesn’t think about Mr. LaLima.”
For his part, Kalenka characterized the ordeal as a “horrible and unfortunate accident and I am responsible,” to which LaLima’s father could be heard muttering an expletive under his breath. Before sentencing, Kalenka asked Carter to consider his three teenage daughters “who need a father in their lives.”
According to Davis, Kalenka could be eligible for parole in 16 months, or earlier on work-release.
“One-and-a-half is not enough,” LaLima’s mother Janis said about the sentencing. “I’ve got a good feeling he’ll never go the four years.”