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.
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.”