07/10/13 2:17pm
07/10/2013 2:17 PM
Plummer

JAMES CARBONE/NEWSDAY POOL |  Joseph Plummer listens to victim impact statements at his sentencing Wednesday in Suffolk County criminal court.

The sister of a Brookhaven man killed in a hit-and-run on East Main Street last December stood in a Suffolk County courtroom Wednesday morning — a few feet from the driver who admitted to fleeing the scene of the crash — and described her family’s pain.

PLummer family

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Family members of hit-and-run victim Scott Wayte walk out of court moments after Joseph Plummer was sentenced to two to six years in prison.

Wendy Worytko talked about the victim’s two daughters who have suffered the loss of a father, and about the kind of devoted family man Scott Wayte was.

“How can you live with yourself?” she asked Joseph Plummer, the driver in the hit-and-run now clad in a dark green jumpsuit, his hands cuffed behind his back. “You are despicable.”

Ms. Worytko told the court she prefers not to use the word “hate.”

“Except for you, Joseph Plummer,” she said. “I hate you.”

More than a dozen family members and friends of Mr. Wayte packed into the Suffolk County criminal courtroom to voice their disgust with Mr. Plummer as he was sentenced to two to six years in prison for driving away from the Dec. 28 accident and attempting to cover up the crime.

His sentence was the maximum allowed under the law.

Family members and prosecutors said the case is a clear example of why the law should be changed to allow for tougher punishments against hit-and-run drivers.

“It was a singular act of thoughtlessness, a singular act of heinousness,” said Suffolk County Judge Mark Cohen during sentencing.

Judge Cohen he told Mr. Plummer the sentence will “hopefully allow you to contemplate what you’ve done.”

But Suffolk County assistant district attorney Al Croce said Mr. Plummer deserved a much more harsh sentence for his crime.

“He has shown no remorse throughout the proceedings,” Mr. Croce said. “He doesn’t care about the consequences of his actions.”

Mr. Croce added that Mr. Plummer should be “removed from society for as long as possible.”

Mr. Croce said the DA’s office believes Mr. Plummer had been drinking before the accident, but since he didn’t stop at the scene of the crash and was arrested days after attempted to cover up the crime, prosecutors could not get enough evidence to prove he was drunk.

“This is a classic example of the need for stronger legislation,” he said.

After the sentencing, District Attorney Thomas Spota and family members urged the New York State Assembly to pass a bill that would allow prosecutors to charge hit-and-run drivers with more serious offenses.

The bill, which was passed by the state senate in February, has stalled in the lower house of the Legislature.

Mr. Spota said had the bill been in effect, Mr. Plummer could have been sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

“We have asked and asked and asked the Assembly to do whatever they possibly could to pass this legislation as soon as possible,” Mr. Spota said. “[Mr. Plummer] deserves to have at least been charged with manslaughter and he would have been doing 15 years in jail.”

Mr. Spota said the DA’s office is currently prosecuting other cases with similar circumstances where hit-and-run drivers could get off easy as well.

“It’s almost slaughter on the highways these days, and this is legislation that should have been passed a long long time ago,” Mr. Spota said.

Mr. Plummer, 49, of Middle Island — a two-time convicted felon with six more misdemeanor convictions to his name — had pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident involving the death of a pedestrian, a class “D” felony, last month.

Mr. 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 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 by Mr. Plummer’s car, 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.

Mr. Croce said Mr. Plummer used pool lining to hide the damaged car, and noted that even though Mr. Plummer saw news reports detailing the deadly accident, he refused to come forward and tried to dodge responsibility.

During sentencing Mr. Plummer’s attorney, Harmon Lutzer, requested a grace period for his client to “get his affairs in order” before sentencing, but judge Mark Cohen denied it after assistant district attorney Al Croce said Mr. Plummer had failed to appear in court four times before this case.

Lutzer admitted that Mr. Plummer had a drinking and drugs problem and requested he be sentenced to the full two to six years and placed into a treatment program while in prison.

Mr. Plummer made a brief statement to the family, and appeared to tear up as he spoke.

“I’m very sorry to the whole family that this ever happened,” he said. “It wasn’t on purpose, it was an accident.” Mr. Plummer paused to compose himself, but didn’t say anything else.

Mr. Wayte’s daughter, Brooke, spoke at the sentencing and said people had no idea how much her father’s death affected their family.

“What everyone else doesn’t know is that I lost my life as well,” she said while holding back tears. “On that night, I lost my biggest fan and supporter.”

Ms. Wayte said her father’s death “crippled my family,” adding that they are now dealing with financial concerns because Mr. Wayte was the breadwinner for the family.

Ms. Wayte also read a statement from her sister, Alexandra.

“For you to hit my dad and drive away and cover it up shows what kind of man you are,” Ms. Wayte wrote.

Melanie Stafford, who was Mr. Wayte’s niece, said she had little hope that Mr. Plummer would reform his ways.

“There’s nothing I can find on record, nothing, that shows you’ve done any good for your community or family,” she said. “Now you’ve committed the ultimate robbery. You took a life.”

Ms. Stafford noted the irony that Mr. Plummer will spend his 50th birthday in prison and said that she hopes he gets “thrown around like a trash bag on the side of the road” while in prison.

“You are marked as scum for life,” she said. “You’re scum and I hope you rot in hell.”

psquire@timesreview.com

06/30/13 12:35pm
06/30/2013 12:35 PM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Police are searching for a black SUV involved in a crash in Calverton Sunday morning.

Riverhead Town police are searching for a black SUV involved in a hit-and-run crash on Route 25 in Calverton around noon Sunday, police said.

The three-vehicle accident, which occurred near J&R’s Steakhouse, led to two passengers on a Hyundai sedan being transported to Peconic Bay Medical Center for treatment of minor injuries.

While the driver of the Hyundai and the driver of a Jeep stopped at the scene of the crash, police said the driver of the black SUV fled the scene.

Police believe the rear passenger side of the SUV is damaged.

Anyone with information is asked to call Riverhead Town police at 727-4500.

jennifer@timesreview.com

06/27/13 2:08pm
06/27/2013 2:08 PM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | This Ford pickup hit a pole and flipped on Sound Avenue in Wading River Thursday, just west of Hulse Landing Road.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | This Ford pickup hit a pole and flipped on Sound Avenue in Wading River Thursday, just west of Hulse Landing Road.

A portion of Sound Avenue in Wading River was closed to traffic about 1:30 p.m. Thursday after a pickup truck hit a pole and flipped just west of Hulse Landing Road.

A Suffolk County Police Department medevac helicopter was called to the scene, though it was determined the Ford pickup’s four occupants suffered only minor injuries and were taken by ambulance to Stony Brook Medical Center.

The crash happened in front of Lewin Farms, where firefighters used a Jaws of Life tool to extract the four victims.

Police at the scene said speed might have been a factor in the crash.

jennifer@timesreview.com

06/19/13 4:08pm
06/19/2013 4:08 PM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Riverhead police inspect the scene of the crash Wednesday afternoon.

Riverhead police and fire crews closed Northville Turnpike Wednesday afternoon after a driver swerved off the road and smashed into a utility pole, injuring herself and leaving downed wires in the street.

The woman — whose identity was not released by police — was driving north in a Toyota Camry on Northville Turnpike between Elton Street and Fischel Avenue when she lost control of the car just before 3 p.m., police said.

The woman collided with a utility pole on the side of the road, spinning her car onto a nearby property, said Riverhead police Sgt. Ron Atkinson.

Riverhead ambulance crews were called to the scene to treat the woman, who didn’t suffer serious injuries in the crash, Sgt. Atkinson said.

Riverhead firefighters were also called to the scene to help free the woman from the wrecked car, but emergency volunteers were able to get her out without having to cut away the doors, fire officials said.

She was taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center for treatment, police said.

There were no passengers in the car.

The cause of the crash is under investigation, Sgt. Atkinson said.

Fire police closed Northville Turnpike between Elton Street and Fischel Avenue as the ruined car was towed from the scene and the wires were cleared from the road.

The road remained closed as of 4 p.m.

psquire@timesreview.com

06/05/13 12:16pm
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

06/05/13 9:42am

BETH YOUNG COURTESY PHOTO | A Riverhead Town police officer attends to a motorcycle crash victim at the corner of Main Street and Roanoke Avenue

A motorcyclist was sent to Peconic Bay Medical Center after a collision with a Honda Accord at the corner of Main Street and Roanoke Avenue in downtown Riverhead Wednesday morning, Riverhead Town Police said.

The man was riding a black ZX-14 Kawasaki motorcycle west on East Main Street when he struck the passenger side of the sedan as the driver attempted to make a left onto Roanoke Avenue shortly before 9 a.m., police said.

The woman who was driving the Accord and her adult son reported no injuries at the scene, police said. The extent of the motorcyclists injuries were unknown, though police said he was moving his arms and legs.

“He took a pretty good hit,” said officer Michael Lombardo.

A portion of Roanoke Avenue remained closed until 9:30 a.m. as police cleared the crash scene.

psquire@timesreview.com

 

05/21/13 5:54pm
05/21/2013 5:54 PM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | A Suffolk County helicopter lands near the county center in Riverside Tuesday afternoon.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | A Suffolk helicopter lands near the County Center Tuesday afternoon.

A man was airlifted to a local hospital Tuesday afternoon after being struck by a car while riding a bike on Route 24 in Flanders, Southampton Town police said.

The accident happened about 3:30 p.m. near Cypress Avenue, a few hundred feet east of County Road 105, police said. The cyclist, who was not identified by police, was then taken by Flanders Northampton ambulance volunteers to the County Center in Riverside.

Riverhead fire crews had cleared a landing zone just south of the County Center’s parking lot.

The injured man was airlifted by a county police helicopter to Stony Brook University Medical Center.

No information as to the extent of the man’s injuries was immediately available.

psquire@timesreview.com

 

05/21/13 11:00am
COURTESY PHOTO | An undated photo of Aaron Hartmann, who was seriously injured Sunday morning.

COURTESY PHOTO | An undated photo of Aaron Hartmann, who was seriously injured on May 12.

Detectives are still “actively investigating” the early morning crash that seriously injured a 23-year-old Riverhead man on May 12, authorities said this week.

The Southampton Town Police Department is looking into the possibility that others may have gotten involved in the incident after the crash itself, although no additional charges have yet been made

The probe will continue “to right any other wrongs,” Detective Sergeant Lisa Costa told the News-Review.

Meanwhile, Aaron Hartmann, the man injured in the crash on County Road 105, is continuing his recovery at Stony Brook Medical Center, relatives said.

Mr. Hartmann’s uncle, Bobby, said his nephew is in stable condition. He’s speaking a bit, though quietly, and breathing without the assistance of a respirator. Doctors are monitoring his brain for any swelling and conducted a skin graph on his leg last week.

Although police arrested Jacqueline Celentano, 21, of Calverton, last Tuesday for leaving the scene of the crash on County Road 105 in Flanders, Bobby Hartmann said he still wants answers as to why no crime scene and accident investigation happened immediately after police were called to the scene.

Police Chief Robert Pearse had told the News-Review officers didn’t fully recognize the seriousness of the injuries, and some confusion involving second-hand information also led to the delay.

Bobby Hartmann said he just wants to be sure no such serious crimes are mishandled in the future.

“What type of safeguards are they going to implement to make sure this happens again?” Bobby Hartmann. “We want to make lemonade out of lemons, and find out what can be learned from all of this.”

He also said that if Ms. Celentano was aided in attempting to allude police after the hit-and-run crash, then those people should step up and faces charges, to “pay their pound of flesh,” for any possible wrongdoing.

Ms. Celentano, a 2009 Riverhead High School graduate, was arraigned last Wednesday in Southampton Justice Court and later posted $30,000 bail. Two Riverhead Stop & Shop employees, who declined to give a name, said Ms. Celentano has been working at the Riverhead supermarket on Route 58 for about a year.

Detectives are looking into whether Ms. Celentano had been working late the night of the accident, Sgt. Costa said.

Bobby Hartmann asked that residents continue to pray for his nephew and Ms. Celentano.

“It’s OK to be mad at the situation,” he said, asking people to temper any feelings of ill-will toward her. “But she’s in the justice system now. She deserves to have her soul saved just as Aaron does or anybody else.”

cmiller@timesreview.com

with Michael White