It was an emotional scene at Queens Criminal Courthouse on Monday, when around 100 friends and family of the late George Gibbons packed into the courtroom for the sentencing of Brooklyn resident Peter Rodriguez.
To show their solidarity, those who gathered dressed in various shades of green to face the man whose reckless driving resulted in the death of Irish American Gibbons (37), last October.
Last month Rodriguez (37), pleaded guilty in connection to a fatal wrong-way hit and run collision which resulted in the death of Gibbons, a beloved bar owner from Maspeth. The five siblings of the late Gibbons delivered their impact statements before sentencing on Monday.
Acting Supreme Court Justice Dorothy Chin Brandt handed down a 3 1/2 to seven years prison sentence to the accused, the maximum allowed under the law.
In a statement on Monday, District Attorney Richard Brown said, “Today’s sentence – which is the maximum allowed under the law – is a measure of justice for the victim and his family. The defendant is being held accountable for his actions and his guilty plea and the sentence imposed is appropriate based on the provable facts of the case.”
Outside the courthouse, George Gibbons Senior, a native of Ireland, expressed disappointment over the length of the sentence.
“I’m sorry that he’s not getting more, but you know, we’ll just have to come back again when he’s up for parole and see what can be done. If we can extend it longer, hopefully we can,” he told reporters.
“There is not substantial amount of time Peter Rodriguez can serve that will make it any easier for our family to deal with the loss of our dear George,” the victim’s sister Bernadette said.
The Gibbons family are Working alongside Counilmember Elizabeth Crowley to try and lenghten the maximum period allowed for such crimes.
“The law needs to be strengthened to penalize those who break it, but right now our system fails to adequately hold criminally negligent-drivers accountable for their actions,” Crowley said outside the courthouse.
“I will continue to work with the Gibbons family and the Maspeth community to call on the State Assembly to pass and Governor Cuomo to sign this important bill.”
George Gibbons Junior was just blocks from his Maspeth bar, Gibbons’ Home, when the car he was traveling in collided with the one driven by Rodriguez on a one-way Long Island Expressway service road at 6:50 a.m. on October 15, 2011. Gibbons was taken to Elmhurst Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
Rodriguez, along with his passenger, immediately fled the scene, but the passenger later returned and was treated in hospital for head injuries. The accused then went on the run which prompted a “Justice for George Gibbons Campaign” which offered a $10,000 reward for any tip that led to his arrest.
Rodriguez was finally arrested one month later in Connecticut by law officials following an anonymous tip to the NYPD crime stoppers hotline.