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Jul 20, 2011 4:07 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Police Chief: Officers Had Probable Cause To File DWI Charges In East Quogue Fatality

Jul 27, 2011 9:09 AM

An East Quogue teenager originally charged with DWI after a fatal car crash last month that killed his teenage friend will not be charged with that crime after toxicology reports revealed that he had no alcohol or drugs in his system at the time of the accident.

Robert Clifford, a spokesman for the Suffolk County district attorney’s office, confirmed last Wednesday, July 20, that Taylor Geib, 17, the driver on the night of the crash that killed Cameron Nicholls, 18, of Quiogue, was charged only with a pair of traffic violations, speeding and failure to maintain his lane, at his arraignment earlier in the day in Southampton Town Justice Court.

Mr. Clifford said Mr. Geib, who pleaded not guilty to both violations and was released on his own recognizance, could still face additional charges, depending on the findings of the ongoing police investigation, which will include a reconstruction of the accident that took place on Lewis Road in East Quogue on June 26. Mr. Nicholls, the only passenger in Mr. Geib’s car, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Mr. Clifford said it could take “weeks” to complete the investigation—meaning that Mr. Geib may not know if he will face additional charges for some time. The DA’s spokesman added that he does not yet know when the accident reconstruction will take place.

Southampton Town Police Chief William Wilson Jr. also noted that the investigation is ongoing, adding that his responding officers had probable cause to file the DWI charge. “As further facts are revealed, the prosecutor will make a determination on charges,” he said.

The chief said that the responding officers at the scene of the fatal car accident followed police procedure in charging Mr. Geib with DWI after the officers found that the car “smelled of alcohol” and found an open bottle of vodka in the car.

“Normally, the officers would issue a field sobriety test, but because he was injured we sent an officer with him to the hospital,” Chief Wilson said, adding that Mr. Geib consented to a blood toxicology test while en route to Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in East Patchogue. “All they needed was probable cause. Based upon the fatality and the indication of alcohol usage, they filed the DWI charge.”

Chief Wilson said late last week that the police department received the results of the toxicology report “a few days ago.”

The event, he said, was a “tragic, horrible and emotional” event for everyone involved.

“My heart goes out to the family of the boy who died, but I’m relieved for the other young man—but he has to live with this for the rest of his life,” Chief Wilson said. “We had to cover our bases. We charged DWI, and our officers had more than enough probable cause.”

Mr. Geib, who was hospitalized for several days after the crash, made his first court appearance last Wednesday afternoon before Town Justice Andrea Schiavoni. Mr. Geib, who was wearing a white dress shirt, sat with his sister, Jaime, and mother, Jodi, prior to being called before the judge.

He was arraigned on the two violations and his attorney, Cornelius Rogers, suggested in court that the DWI charge would be dropped.

“We want a public exoneration,” Mr. Rogers said during the court proceedings. “The blood results came back ‘no alcohol.’ There was no evidence of that.”

Mr. Rogers’s statement prompted Cameron’s mother, Stephanie Nicholls, who was sitting in the second row of the packed courtroom in Hampton Bays, to shout: “There was no alcohol, no drugs, but there was a dead body!”

Following the outburst, Ms. Nicholls was asked to approach the bench and Justice Schiavoni explained to her that the DWI count wasn’t among the charges being faced that day by Mr. Geib.

Prosecutor Brad McGill, who was representing the Suffolk County district attorney’s office, refused to comment on the proceedings. He referred all questions to Mr. Clifford.

Following his arraignment, Mr. Geib was released on his own recognizance. The two traffic violation charges were adjourned and he is scheduled to return to Town Justice Court on September 14, courts officials said.

In a closed-door meeting after the arraignment, Mr. McGill spoke with Ms. Nicholls and family friend Geralyn Sager. Afterward, Ms. Sager said Mr. McGill told them that Mr. Rogers was working to have the DWI charge dropped.

“We heard they didn’t find any alcohol or drugs and they did not want to bring the charges,” Ms. Sager said through tears. “But they’re still pursuing it.”

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Why would SHTPD charge him with DWI if he wasn't? That makes no sense.
By baywave (22), Westhampton Beach on Jul 20, 11 4:49 PM
There are a lot of actions Police take that seem heavy handed (and laws that are ridiculous), but this isn't one of them. A car crash where road conditions are not difficult to manuever, an open bottle of alcohol - illegal in itself, teenagers which are a high-risk group known for testing the limits, and a dead body? Charging DUI in the absence of passing FST's is perfectly reasonable. The likelyhood of DUI here was very very high. Yes they could have waited until after the Tox results came ...more
By Funbeer (273), Southampton on Jul 22, 11 4:21 PM
2 members liked this comment
I can't imagine they would drop it unless there was no alcohol in his system. Perhaps I am being naive. Why would they have said it was DWI if they weren't sure? Very very odd.

Very very heartbreaking.
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Jul 20, 11 4:58 PM
They said it initially, jumping the gun, because they found an open bottle in the car. It was not Taylor's. All of the drug and alcohol tests on Taylor came back 100% negative.
By Jessica713 (20), Easy Quogue on Jul 20, 11 5:35 PM
1 member liked this comment
He swore to his dad that he was sober...the truth prevailed! My heart goes out to both families in the wake of this very tragic accident.
By cush870 (31), Westhampton Beach on Jul 20, 11 10:46 PM
... fire the cops involved.
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Jul 20, 11 10:50 PM
1 member liked this comment
Yes, that's an intelligent response...... give me a break.
By HBGuy (14), Hampton Bays on Jul 31, 11 1:56 AM
I wonder if that is all the criminality he faces? Excess speed. And what looked like three hundred feet of skid marks left on the road. What a shame, two young life effected so permanently. So the kids blood came back clean, that is a relief to know that he was not drunk and that can be ruled out for both families. But How can the kid justify the amount of skid marks left on Lewis road. The whole situation stinks. So very sad.
By mightycolemack (15), Hampton Bays on Jul 20, 11 11:23 PM
Taylor Geib has to live with the fact that he killed his bestfriend, for the rest of his life. Isn't that punishment enough?
By MartyMcDougal (24), Sag Harbor on Jul 21, 11 8:18 AM
3 members liked this comment
They weren't "best friends", they were just friendly. I think it's ridiculous that he only has to pay his way out of this. Then he gets to move on with his life while another innocent life was taken. R.I.P. Cameron.
By kriissyyx3 (1), East Quogue on Jul 29, 11 3:44 PM
STPD cops charge DWI whenever it is plausible regardless of the incident. DWI busts enhance their record, increase their opportunity for promotion, and add to their arrest total in the annual p.d. competition for the award for the highest number of DWI busts. Since DWI busts are, by far, the most frequent category of arrests in Southampton, STPD officers focus on them to forward their careers.

The correct charge here, assuming that there was an open container of liquor in the car, is ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jul 21, 11 10:45 AM
2 members liked this comment
Wow. Highhatesize this article is not really the place for your anti-cop rhetoric. I am glad the kids blood is clean. I am glad they will have to drop the charge. I am glad they looked into at least. Imagine being the deceased kids family and not knowing the answers.
By mightycolemack (15), Hampton Bays on Jul 21, 11 12:08 PM
2 members liked this comment
Why on Earth would anyone peruse a DWI charge, since the scientific findings were none? He was not drunk or on drugs, someone died in that car, he will live with that his whole life. He was not on drugs, this he will live with his whole life as well.
By just breath (82), yuck on Jul 21, 11 11:01 AM
2 members liked this comment
This is why justice should be held in the courtroom and not the public. Since he was not found guilty of being under the influence now people will focus on something else about the case to persecute him. Yes, a life was lost that can never be brought back but this was an accident and not meant intentionally. No one goes out to intentionally kill their best friend. My heart breaks for both families. My son is their age and if he was in either of their places it would destroy me. It is important ...more
By Cali (4), Sag Harbor on Jul 21, 11 12:30 PM
2 members liked this comment
To highhat-the STPD did a very good job in a very difficult situation. The DA did the correct thing by updating the charges after the testing was done.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Jul 21, 11 12:33 PM
2 members liked this comment
to mightycolemack:

I am cognizant of the sensitive nature of this thread. However, my post was a response to the several posts above that asked why the cops would allege a DWI without evidence.

The reason that readers were startled by this seemingly irrational charge was because of the gravity of the incident that precipitated it. It would have been unremarkable if it had been charged subsequent to an otherwise harmless traffic infraction.

What I tried to point out was ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jul 22, 11 10:12 AM
2 members liked this comment
HHS -- you missed the mark on this IMO. Plenty of probable cause to charge DWI.

Take a deep breath or two maybe?

Have a good weekend.

PS -- And ditto to EastEnd68 -- a very difficult situation in which the PD and DA have acted quite professionally IMO. So sorry for the life-long hurt that all involved will go through.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jul 22, 11 3:55 PM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jul 23, 11 12:23 AM
to PBR:

Probable cause certainly existed for DWI but it depended on the supposition that the driver had drunk alcohol from an open container in the car, a supposition that proved false.

Possession of an open container is incontestable (unless the bottle was shattered but still sealed.) Proper procedure would be to book the suspect for the incontestable charge and upgrade to the speculative charge if subsequent evidence warranted it.

However, given the circumstances of ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jul 23, 11 12:29 PM
1 member liked this comment
Really?
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jul 25, 11 9:52 PM
HH, of your 895 comments a solid 600+ of them are against the police. Well thought out and communicated with advanced vocabulary; but that cannot disguise the simplistic and youthful, baseless charges you levy. To charge that a cop gets a promotion because of a DWI without any basis or proof and to capitalize on a very tragic situation is unseemly. The arguments themselves are sophomoric, tired and stereotypical attacks no matter how prettily you tie them up. You create scenarios out of thin ...more
By HSA (68), southampton on Jul 22, 11 2:39 PM
2 members liked this comment
see above...
Jul 23, 11 12:26 AM appended by Mr. Z
P.S. Mr. "Sophomoric". Was that sent from your "stupidphone", or do you know what paragraphs are?
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jul 23, 11 12:26 AM
12:26 am on a Friday night in the Hamptons and you are at your computer being critical and angry about my grammar and sentence structure. Not good.
By HSA (68), southampton on Jul 23, 11 7:06 AM
3 members liked this comment
Nah, just figured I'd see if I could get under your skin.

It's not nice when "the shoe is on the other foot", is it?
Jul 25, 11 9:52 PM appended by Mr. Z
Sorry, I couldn't sleep. Happens sometimes with the apnea.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jul 25, 11 9:52 PM
If any one of us were a police officer and came up to such a scene: Totalled car, many, many skid marks proving high speeds, an open container and a dead teenager, no one can deny the idea that an initial DWI charge that can be easily dropped after testing should occur. I feel for both families, I have a friend who was in a similar situation. The guilt he will feel for so long will indeed be enough, and the boy should perhaps talk publicly at high school functions over the dangers of driving ...more
By YesYesBub (58), East Hampton on Jul 22, 11 7:35 PM
2 members liked this comment
Open bottle in vehicle.

Err, on side of caution...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jul 22, 11 11:35 PM
to HSA:

Your ultimate post containing nothing other than assertions that are egregiously false and foolish (and so ripe for rebuttal), I cannot but think that you are trying to bait me into continuing the argument so that you can continue lamenting my impropriety.

One of us has to stop. I'll be the one.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jul 23, 11 1:44 AM
Not only do I stand by my statements, I find extra joy in knowing that Mr. Z didn't like them either. And my ultimate goal was achieved, for you to stop. Thank you, carry on.
By HSA (68), southampton on Jul 23, 11 7:01 AM
1 member liked this comment
So was mine.

"That detective, is the right question. Program terminated."
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 5, 11 12:17 AM
God Speed To Both families.....
By 1640sWhaler (74), Sag Harbor/Easthampton on Jul 23, 11 9:17 PM
It's a shame some think they know it all, bash the cops from the eastend but you continue to live in the Hamptons. Live with what they do or simply move out. A life was taken from a set of parents. Who cares who was charged with what for once. Say a prayer for the Family, stop bashing the people who may save your butt sometime.
By 1640sWhaler (74), Sag Harbor/Easthampton on Jul 23, 11 9:24 PM
1 member liked this comment
Per many of the comments above, the factual circumstances of this crash, at 11:15 PM on a graduation night, not only permitted the arresting officers to charge DWI, but they might have been questioned if they had NOT brought this charge.

Please review the horrific details of the crash, time of night, and so forth in this article (which for some reason is not linked above):

http://www.27east.com/news/article.cfm/East-Quogue/388851/One-Teen-Dead-Another-Charged-With-DWI-Following-Car-Accident-In-East-Quogue-On-Sunday

Some ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jul 24, 11 1:23 PM
(Jessica713) the law requires u to charge dwi in a fatal accident to get blood its easy to drop the charge once the bloos comes back negative but you cant charge him after you leave his sight with dwi.. cops dont have to be 100 sure for them to charge dwi they just have to have probably cause which they had.

(highhatsize)cops dont get any promotion for getting dwi's.
By semperfi9263 (23), quogue on Jul 24, 11 10:50 PM
Your familiarity with the law is on a par with your familiarity with the English language.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jul 25, 11 2:52 AM
Not sure why Ms Nicholls and Ms Sager are "extremely disappointed that the DWI charges would be dropped" The facts are what they are. The tests came back negative regarding the driver using alcohol or drugs while driving. That boy will suffer and have to live with his fatal actions all of his remaining days. For anyone to be disappointed that alcohol or drugs didnt play a role in this tragedy is not thinking clearly.
By twc24 (3), Westhampton on Jul 25, 11 10:37 PM
2 members liked this comment
I am happy for the family of the boy who was driving. It must have been very difficult to have to deal with an erroneous felony charge along with coping with the death of a friend. its so difficult to navigate adolescents on a good day.......
By motherof4boys (9), Hampton Bays on Jul 28, 11 2:16 PM
1 member liked this comment