07/15/14 2:23pm
07/15/2014 2:23 PM
Guillermo Alvarado Ajcuc was sentenced to 25 years to life Tuesday morning for the murder of Mirian Yohanna Garcia Mansilla. (Credit: James Carbone, Newsday)

Guillermo Alvarado Ajcuc was sentenced to 25 years to life Tuesday morning for the murder of Mirian Yohanna Garcia Mansilla. (Credit: James Carbone, Newsday)

The sister and mother of Mirian Yohana Garcia Mansilla each went up to the podium in a Suffolk County courtroom and faced the judge.

As they took their turns speaking, each glanced over at the man standing in a white T-shirt and jeans surrounded by court officers, the man who killed their beloved “Yohana.”

They urged the court to make sure that man spends the rest of his life in prison.  (more…)

05/23/14 8:00am
05/23/2014 8:00 AM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | The criminal court building at the County Center.

At first, Guillermo Alvarado-Ajcuc — sitting in a chair against the corner of the small interview room — tells the two Suffolk County homicide detectives that the girl he was with outside the Sabor Latino restaurant in Riverhead fell down.

He says in Spanish that he left soon after she fell, with a friend.

The detectives tell him they know that’s not the truth. (more…)

01/08/14 1:38pm
01/08/2014 1:38 PM
TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Joe Johnson (top) leaves court last year with a lawyer

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Joe Johnson (top) leaves court last year with a lawyer

A Riverhead School District elementary school teacher was sentenced to three years probation and had his license suspended for six months on Wednesday, nearly two months after pleading down from a gun charge that stemmed from an incident in April of 2012.

Joe Johnson, a fourth grade teacher at Philips Avenue Elementary, was pulled over in Southampton Village nearly two years ago and after police reported that they caught him driving drunk with a loaded gun in the car, was “reassigned” to his home, pending the outcome of the case.

On Wednesday, Suffolk County Criminal Court Judge James Hudson said that the probationary period will have alcohol and narcotics conditions, “to ensure [his] probation is a success.” In addition, he will have to pay the court a surcharge and install an interlock device on his car.

Mr. Johnson pleaded guilty to DWI in November, as the felony weapons charge was unable to be withheld following what prosecutors called an illegal police search.

Mr. Johnson’s attorney, Hauppauge-based William Keahon, said that the end result of the court proceedings vindicated his client.

“My position from day one has been that he never had a gun,” Mr. Keahon said. “It took this long a time to convince the DA about that, so I’m very happy for him.”

While Mr. Johnson’s case went through court proceedings, he has continued to be paid — save for a four-month span from October 2012 through January 2013. He had previously been charged with DWI, eventually pleading down to a charge of driving while ability impaired in 2006.

Riverhead superintendent Nancy Carney stated previously that should Mr. Johnson be convicted of the felony gun charge, he would have been fired. And following the announcement of the plea deal in November, Ms. Carney had stated that the district was still weighing its options.

That appears to still be the case.

“A process, separate and distinct from the criminal court proceedings, has been initiated by the District against Mr. Johnson,” Ms. Carney said via email on Wednesday. “Mr. Johnson will remain on administrative reassignment pending the outcome of the administrative proceedings.”

Active in the schools, Mr. Johnson has taught in the Riverhead School District since 2000, most recently teaching fourth grade at the Phillips Avenue Elementary School, and has been a high school basketball coach. He also led the annual “Say No to Drugs” march in 2006.

Mr. Johnson’s case wouldn’t be the first in recent memory of a school employee having legal problems behind the wheel.

Former high school principal David Zimbler was arrested in June of 2008 on a DWI charge. He later pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of driving while ability impaired. The Riverhead Board of Education delayed his tenure by a year in the wake of the arrest, and required Mr. Zimbler to complete an employee assistance program and in community service at the time. Mr. Zimbler, a Commack resident, later left the district in 2011 to work in Westbury.

Paul Squire contributed to this article.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the length of Mr. Johnson’s sentence. He was sentenced to three years probation, not three months.

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