A Brooklyn hit-and-run driver pleaded guilty after he drove the wrong way on a Long Island Expressway service road and left the scene of crash that claimed the life of popular Queens Irish bar owner George Gibbons last October.
Peter Rodriguez, 37, appeared at Queens Criminal Court House last Friday where he pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide and leaving the scene of a fatal hit and run crash.
The court was packed with over 60 family and friends of the victim, who were dressed in green to show their solidarity.
The Brooklyn resident is scheduled to be sentenced on May 7, at which time Justice Chin Brandt indicated she will sentence him to three and a half to seven years in prison.
Speaking to the Irish Voice, Gibbons’s younger sister Bernadette Gibbons said the family were pleased Rodriguez admitted to the crime he committed, but they believe the sentence is too lenient.
“We will never be satisfied with the amount of time that he is realistically going to serve in jail,” she said.
“As we sat there in sheer silence looking at the back of the man who robbed Georgie's life, we all felt every possible emotion at once -- pain, anger, and sadness.”
The family is working with New York City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley to find a way to change the law relating to the maximum sentence imposed. They believe a few years in prison for killing one man and seriously injuring two others is not sufficient.
“George was such a burst of energy and life. He was the light that shined through us all, and it is still so very hard even to this very day to believe that his irreplaceable smile is no longer with us,” Bernadette said.
“It is enough to lose such a vibrant member of your family; it is enough to deal with the search for your brother's killer for a solid month; it is enough to go to court once a month just when you feel you are ready to begin the mourning process and yet you are forced to re-open the wound of sadness; but it is beyond enough when you look at the back of a coward who cannot make eye contact with you and know that he will be out of jail in just a couple of short years.”
The owner of a Maspeth Irish bar, The Gibbons' Home, Gibbons was killed after finishing his shift on October 15, when he called a livery cab to go home. At 6:50 a.m. just blocks away from his bar, the car was struck by Rodriguez who was driving the wrong way on the one-way service road.
The accused then fled the scene and Gibbons was taken to Elmhurst Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. The suspect then went on the run before being apprehended on November 15 in Connecticut, following an anonymous tip off to the NYPD’s Crimestoppers hotline.
“A local business owner tragically lost his life in a hit-and-run crash that also injured two other individuals. No amount of words can undo the damage or pain that the defendant has caused,” District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement issued by his office.
“Hopefully this guilty plea will give some measure of solace to the victim’s family and will serve as a measure of justice for a senseless death. The sentence to be imposed – the maximum sentence allowed under the law – is appropriate based on the provable facts,” Brown added.
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