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People v. Asaro

Court of Appeals of New York

October 22, 2013

The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent,
v.
Patrick A. ASARO, Appellant.

Page 678

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 679

Ostrer & Hoovler, P.C., Chester (Benjamin Ostrer of counsel), for appellant.

[976 N.Y.S.2d 11] Francis D. Phillips, II, Goshen (Robert H. Middlemiss and Andrew R. Kass of counsel), for respondent.

Page 680

OPINION

GRAFFEO, J.

[998 N.E.2d 811] The primary issue before us is whether defendant's convictions for manslaughter in the second degree and assault in the second degree, each predicated on the mental state of recklessness, are supported by legally sufficient evidence. We conclude that they are and therefore affirm.

In the early morning hours of November 22, 2008, defendant Patrick Asaro was driving his vehicle with four passengers on a rural two-lane road in Orange County. He suddenly stopped his car, revved the engine and quickly accelerated to speeds far in excess of the posted limit of 55 miles per hour. Ignoring an urgent plea from one of his passengers to slow down, he crossed the double yellow line and struck an oncoming car head-on, instantly killing the driver and injuring the passenger in the other vehicle. All four passengers in defendant's car sustained injuries. As a result, defendant was indicted for manslaughter in the second degree (Penal Law § 125.15[1] ), criminally negligent homicide (Penal Law § 125.10), four counts of assault in the second degree (Penal Law § 120.05[4] ), four counts of assault in the third degree (Penal Law § 120.00[2], [3] ), reckless

Page 681

endangerment in the second degree (Penal Law § 120.20), reckless driving (Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1212) and driving while ability impaired (Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1192[1] ).

At trial, Andrew Adamczyk testified that several hours before the accident he held a party at his parents' house located in the Town of Mount Hope along Guymard Turnpike, a two-lane unlit highway with a speed limit of 55 miles per hour. There was a sharp bend in the road near the home. At one point that evening, he watched defendant's 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer speed by his house, turn around and enter his driveway. When defendant exited his car, he asked Adamczyk whether he liked the modifications he had made to the exhaust and air intake systems— adjustments designed to make the vehicle louder and faster. In response, Adamczyk admonished defendant not to drive by his house at such a dangerously high rate of speed.

At the party, 10 to 15 guests were drinking vodka and beer. Kyle Ligenzowski testified that he and defendant drank two shots of vodka together and played " beer pong" as teammates. Other partygoers likewise saw defendant drinking vodka and participating in beer pong. Two witnesses testified that defendant appeared to be intoxicated. After defendant had been at the party for a few hours, Ligenzowski told him that two people— Jorge Ortiz and Michael Nazario— needed a lift to the party from the nearby train station in Middletown. Defendant agreed to pick them up and he, Ligenzowski and Therasa Lazaro left the party a little after midnight. After picking up the two individuals, defendant stopped at a gas station to purchase more beer and headed back to the party. Ligenzowski, Ortiz and Nazario each drank beer and smoked marijuana while riding in the back seat. Lazaro was seated in the front passenger seat.

Suddenly, defendant brought his car to a halt in the middle of the road even though there was no reason to stop. He revved the engine, shifted into gear and accelerated quickly. Ligenzowski and Nazario knew that defendant was speeding because they could hear the car loudly accelerating and felt themselves being pushed back into the seat. Ortiz leaned forward to look at the speedometer and saw that the needle [998 N.E.2d 812] [976 N.Y.S.2d 12] was pointing at 130 miles per hour. Ligenzowski testified that he screamed at defendant to slow down but defendant did not respond. Nazario heard Ligenzowski exclaim to ...


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