The family of George Gibbons, who lost his life in a hit and run crash in Queens, New York, is fighting to ensure that his killer is not released on parole. The Irish New York family is starting a campaign to prolong Peter Rodriguez’s prison sentence until 2019.
The Gibbons family is calling on the community to help them submit as many letters of support as possible to ensure that Rodriguez serves the entire sentence. His hearing takes place on March 23, 2015.
On October 15, 2011 George Gibbons left his bar, The Gibbons' Home, to take a livery cab home at around 6am after closing. Peter Rodriguez (36) drove his girlfriend’s Chrysler Seabring the wrong way down the Long Island Expressway service road, near 58th Street, in Woodside. He slammed head on into Gibbons' car.
Gibbons (37) was thrown against the dashboard in the collision. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.
Rodriguez fled the scene on foot. His passenger and the driver of Gibbon’s cab were injured but survived the crash.
It took the police a month to track down Rodriguez, who was arrested in Connecticut by the NYPD/FBI Regional Fugitive Task Force.
George’s youngest sister, Bernadette, told IrishCentral, “The best-case scenario for our family would be for Peter Rodriguez to serve his maximum sentence of seven years. No time will ever be enough for him to serve, but seven years as opposed to three or five would put our minds at ease somewhat.
“The harsh reality is that George is never coming back, but we need to stand up for his honor and do our best as a family and as a community to obtain justice for George.”
In 2011 Rodriguez pled guilty to criminally negligent homicide and leaving the scene of an accident. He was sentenced to 3.5 to 7 years in prison, the maximum allowed, and is already up for parole.
Bernadette told IrishCentral that even at the time of Rodriguez’s sentencing the family was shocked and disappointed.
She said, “Three and a half to seven years is not a long enough sentence in our eyes. Rodriguez was in jail 18 times and he was actually out on parole when he killed George. We were surprised that his lengthy history had minimal bearing on his overall sentencing.”
Just 3.5 years after George’s untimely death Bernadette said Rodriguez’s upcoming parole has been difficult on the family, who have been forced to re-live the horrendous events that led to George’s death. However, along with their community in Queens, the Gibbons family is determined to fight to have Rodriguez’s sentence prolonged.
Local politicians, including Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), have been fighting alongside the family since the accident to see that penalties for crimes such as these are increased. In October 2013 the street the Gibbons grew up was co-named “George Gibbons Jr. Way.”
Speaking at the ribbon cutting Crowley said, “George was a beloved member of this community and his death really showed the need for tougher laws on drunk-driving as well as fleeing the scene of a crime.”
Bernadette explained that as part of his parole hearing the Gibbons family has been able to submit personal statements about George’s tragic accident and give further insight into life after the accident that took George’s life.
Now the family is calling on those who knew George to submit letters objecting to Rodriguez’s release to the parole board.
She explained, “Every letter to the parole board will help George’s case. Volume in numbers will deter the parole board from allowing Rodriguez to be released, and we pray that he will be denied parole” (see details below).
Bernadette paid tribute to her brother saying, “Georgie was a remarkable man with a zest for life like no other. The night his life ended, he was doing the right thing by taking a taxi home. Little did George know that this dangerous and careless career criminal was coming in his direction or that he would leave him for dead in the middle of his hometown.
“Common sense tells us that Peter Rodriguez will offend again if granted parole and he is clearly not capable of abstaining from criminal behavior. He is a threat to society and everyone will be safer if he remains behind bars. We never want to see another family go through a similar experience.”
The family emphasizes that those wishing to submit letters must include Rodriguez’s inmate information (Name: Rodriguez, Peter, NYSID: 06879028H, DIN: 12A2553) and send them to the attention of Janet Koupash.
They also ask that a copy of each letter be sent to the family, to keep on file. The copies can be sent to these addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org / The Gibbons' Home: 54-12 69th Street Maspeth, Queens NY 11378.
The official letters are to be sent to the N.Y.S. Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (Attn: OVA, Janet Koupash, 1220 Washington Avenue, Albany, NY 12226) or submitted online here: www.parole.ny.gov/letters.html.