Guilty plea in fatal December hit and run

06/05/2013 12:16 PM |
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Joseph Plummer is led into Riverhead Town Justice Court  before his arraignment in January. He has since pleaded guilty to hitting a man with his car and fleeing the scene.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Joseph Plummer is led into Riverhead Town Justice Court before his arraignment in January. He has since pleaded guilty to hitting a man with his car and fleeing the scene.

The Middle Island man arrested in connection with a December hit and run in downtown Riverhead that killed a Brookhaven man celebrating his birthday has pleaded guilty to the felony charge against him, according to court records.

Joseph Plummer, 49, pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident involving the death of a pedestrian, a class “D” felony, during a appearance in Suffolk County criminal court Monday.

The felony carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.

Mr. Plummer’s attorney, Harmon Lutzer, said his client was not offered a plea deal, and will accept what sentence judge Mark Cohen orders.

“It’s a tough case, and it’s a tragic circumstance,” Mr. Lutzer said. “It’s basically the totality of the circumstances [that caused him to plead guilty.] … Quite frankly, I don’t think he had a choice.”

Mr. Lutzer said a desire to answer questions about the crime may also have motivated his client to admit to the hit and run.

The victim in the crash, Scott Wayte, was celebrating his 50th birthday with family on Dec. 28 when he was struck by Mr. Plummer while trying to cross East Main Street.

Prosecutors said Mr. Plummer was traveling home from working on a pool in Aquebogue at the time of the incident and had been drinking vodka on the day of the crash since the morning from a Poland Spring water bottle; because he wasn’t apprehended until several days later, authorities couldn’t prove he was drunk at the time of the crash,

Mr. Wayte was knocked into the opposite lane where he was struck by a second car. While the driver of the second vehicle stopped to help Mr. Wayte, Mr. Plummer fled the scene and drove 10 miles to a gas station despite severe damage to his car’s windshield, said District Attorney Thomas Spota in a January press conference on the case.

Mr. Plummer contacted his boss, who owned the car involved in the incident. The two first planned to report the car stolen and take the insurance money before deciding to claim the car was damaged when it struck a tree, Mr. Spota said.

The two had splinters of wood they were planning to plant on the car to back up their claim and had covered the damaged car with a tarp until they could go through with their plan, Mr. Spota said.

Mr. Plummer was arrested two days later after a witness saw the hidden car and contacted police. Mr. Plummer’s boss cooperated with authorities was not charged with a crime.

Mr. Plummer had been previously convicted of two felonies, prosecutors said. He is being held at the Suffolk County correctional facility and will be sentenced on July 10.

psquire@timesreview.com

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