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Dec 11, 2019 11:49 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Driver In Fatal Montauk Accident Remains Free, Is Unlikely To Face Felony Indictment Until January

Dec 17, 2019 1:24 PM



The Montauk woman who killed a bicyclist in October while driving with what a toxicology report showed was a blood-alcohol level close to double the legal limit might not face felony charges until after the holiday season.

East Hampton Town Justice Lisa Rana released Lisa Rooney on her own recognizance last Wednesday morning, December 11, but ordered her to surrender her driver’s license and forbade her from driving. The 30-year-old Ms. Rooney then left East Hampton Town Justice Court with a large group of friends and family.

On October 30, Ms. Rooney was driving a 2019 Chevrolet pickup truck that struck and killed John James Usma-Quintero, 28, while he was traveling on his bicycle just after sunset on Flamingo Road in Montauk.

Ms. Rooney refused a breath test at the time and was arrested and charged with misdemeanor DWI. She was forced by court order to submit to a blood test, which was not administered until some three hours later.

In court last week it was revealed that the test showed her blood-alcohol level at the time was 0.13 percent; 0.08 qualifies as driving while intoxicated, according to New York State law.

Justice Rana released Ms. Rooney the day after the fatal accident on $1,000 bail — an amount that angered Mr. Usma-Quintero’s family and friends. Prosecutors had asked for $50,000 bail. But Justice Rana said that Ms. Rooney’s lifelong ties to the Montauk community, where she owns a boutique with her sister, meant she was unlikely to be a flight risk.

Last week, Justice Rana noted that the $1,000 will be returned to Ms. Rooney as well, because of new state rules that will bar the requirement of bail for most misdemeanors, and are forcing the town to return all the bail it is currently holding on pending criminal charges.

Ms. Rooney’s defense attorney, Marc Gann of Mineola, told Justice Rana on Wednesday that he’s been informed a grand jury has been impaneled to review additional charges against his client, but that he did not expect an upgraded indictment to be handed up to the Suffolk County district attorney’s office until after the holiday season.

Mr. Gann did say later that he would expect vehicular manslaughter, a felony, to be “one of the charges” ultimately filed against his client in Suffolk County Criminal Court.

Ms. Rooney appeared before Justice Rana for the first time since her initial arraignment, having missed a recent scheduled court appearance because, her attorney said, she had been attending an inpatient drug and alcohol rehabilitation program.

Mr. Gann said Wednesday that Ms. Rooney has completed the inpatient program and is now participating in outpatient treatment.

Justice Rana ordered Ms. Rooney to return to court on January 16 and said she expected the case would be transferred to the Suffolk County Criminal Court by then.

Ms. Rooney is the daughter of a Queens criminal court judge.

Valentina Garcia, the late Mr. Quintero’s girlfriend, said that it was painful to see Ms. Rooney leaving the courthouse with her friends and family again.

“It’s hard,” she said, tears welling in her eyes. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with this, but I just want things to be fair. If we, the Spanish community, had done something like this, would it have been like this, with the bail? I don’t think that would have happened.”

Mr. Gann told Justice Rana on Wednesday that he had been informed of grand jury proceedings but said that he expected the court calendar with the holiday approaching would mean the charges would not get on the docket until early in the new year.

The attorney read a statement from Ms. Rooney’s family expressing sorrow about the pain Mr. Quintero’s family is suffering due to the accident.

“Lisa and her family extend their deepest sympathy to the family of Mr. Quintero for their devastating loss,” Mr. Gann said. “There are no words that can express their sorrow for the grief that has been thrust upon their family. Nor can any words or deeds undo the tragedy or relieve their grief. They know there is no greater pain than losing a loved one.”

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