Indictment Ahead For Montauk Woman

T.E. McMorrow
Lisa Rooney, second from right, showed up at East Hampton Town Justice Court December 11 with supporters.

The Montauk woman accused of being drunk when her 2019 Chevrolet Silverado struck and killed a bicyclist October 30 will likely be indicted on a vehicular manslaughter charge when the case is presented to a grand jury next week, according to the woman’s attorney.

Lisa Rooney, 30, was in East Hampton Town Justice Court Wednesday, December 11 with her attorney, Marc Gann, where the results of a blood test taken three hours after the accident that took the life of John James Usma-Quintero, 28, were announced. The result of that test, Justice Lisa Rana said in court, showed a percentage of alcohol in the blood of .13 of one percent, over the .08 mark that defines intoxication in New York.

When it came time to set a new date, Gann told Rana that he has been notified that the district attorney’s office will be presenting the case to a grand jury next week. The next meaningful court date will likely be next month in either Central Islip or Riverside, depending on which state judge the case is assigned to. At that time, the indictment Gann expects is coming will be unsealed, and Rooney will be arraigned.

The portion of the toxicology report that was sent to the courthouse by the district attorney’s vehicular crime unit only covered alcohol. The results of the blood test regarding other drugs that might have been in Rooney’s system at the time of the incident were not included. Other drugs, such as marijuana and cocaine, can take longer to test for than alcohol. The report presented to Rana specifically states that a “supplemental drug report” is coming.

Afterward, Gann was asked, given the results of the blood test, if he is anticipating a vehicular manslaughter charge to be brought by the grand jury. “I would assume so, yes,” he answered. Vehicular manslaughter can carry a sentence of four to seven years in state prison.

However, Gann acknowledged that the district attorney’s office will likely try to extrapolate a reading from the .13 number backward from the time the blood was drawn to the time of the alleged crime. According to the police, Rooney refused to have blood drawn, forcing them to have to obtain a warrant from a state judge requiring Rooney to consent. That took three hours, with the assumption being that in that time the level of alcohol in Rooney’s system would have been dropping.

If that extrapolation produces a reading of .18 or higher, the charge would be raised to aggravated vehicular manslaughter, which carries a longer sentence if convicted.

Normally, vehicular assault and manslaughter cases on the East End are assigned to New York State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho, who is seated in Central Islip. However, Gann explained, because Rooney’s mother is also a New York State Supreme Court Justice working out of the criminal courts in New York City, the relationship between her and any judge selected would have to be vetted.

Rooney’s mother, Bruna DiBiase, “has tried to distance herself from the court process so as not to even appear to have any influence over the process,” Gann said.

Gann read a statement from the family expressing their sorrow for what happened October 30.

Rooney was accompanied for her court appearance by about 20 friends and family.

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