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A Midwood firefighter who prosecutors say killed a man while speeding through Bensonhurst with one hand on the wheel and the other on his cellphone keypad is facing seven years in prison.
After a two-month investigation, District Attorney Charles Hynes indicted Firefighter Pat Quagliariello on Dec. 21, hitting the smoke-eater with a battery of charges that include criminally negligent homicide, leaving the scene of an accident, reckless driving and several traffic violation laws – including texting while driving, which became illegal last November.
The charges stem from a horrific Oct. 10 crash in which Quagliariello’s car rammed Guatamalan immigrant Manuel Tzajguachiac near the corner of 65th Street and 20th Avenue.
Witnesses claim that Tzajguachiac was crossing the street at 12:30 am when the vehicle barreled into him, then kept going.
Cops found the damaged car near Quagliariello’s home. But while cops knew they had the car used in the hit and run, they couldn’t prove Quagliariello was inside it when Tzajguachiac was killed. Quagliariello agreed to be questioned by police, but flat out denied he was inside the car at the time of the accident.
The FDNY suspended Quagliariello from duty as police continued their investigation, which involved search warrants of the firefighter’s home and car.
Investigators then checked the Quagliariello’s cellphone records, learning that he was texting his girlfriend just moments before the accident.
“[Quagliariello] was not only texting at or about the time of the accident, he also made [an admission] that he was involved in a crash,” Assistant District Attorney Craig Esswein said at Quagliariello’s arraignment, noting that Tzajguachiac’s DNA was found on the car.
Joseph Tacopina, Quagliariello’s attorney, said the prosecution has very little to back up its claims.
“Saying that my client was texting ‘at about’ the time of the accident is not sufficient evidence,” Tacopina said.
33 months for shock jock
The ultra-right-wing radio host and blogger who encouraged his listeners to take up arms against three Illinois judges is going to be off the air for a while, a Brooklyn federal judge ordered on Dec. 21.
Shock jock Hal Turner didn’t have a lot to say during the three trials — the last of which was in August.
But he had plenty to say when he was sentenced to 33 months in jail and turned the usually short formality into an hour-long tirade about how his guilty verdict “was invalid because it was based on fraud” and how he was not on trial — political correctness and free speech were.
“I was the first editor of a legitimate American media outlet to be jailed for an editorial since 1798,” Turner told U.S. Judge Donald Walter, who he accused of committing “legal skullduggery.”
A jury found Turner guilty of inciting his fans to harm three federal judges.
After the judges upheld ordinances banning handguns in Illinois, Turner wrote on his blog that the jurists deserved to be killed. He also put the photos of the judges on his website, claiming that “their blood will replenish the tree of liberty.”
The Illinois U.S. Attorney arrested Turner for his incendiary comments in 2009, but had the case moved to Brooklyn to stave off any questions of judicial impropriety.
Turner always maintained that his statements were covered by the First Amendment and that the three judges were never in any real danger. At least half of his first two juries believed him, sparking back-to-back mistrials. It took the third jury just a few hours to convict Turner — who wasn’t the only one upset over Judge Walter’s sentencing. Federal prosecutor Diane McArthur had urged the judge to sentence Turner to six years in prison.
“[Turner’s blog posts] went beyond opinion … beyond commentary,” she told the judge. “He wanted to threaten and intimidate these judges.”
With time served, Turner will be a free man in just over two years. But he won’t be able to run to the nearest broadcast booth when he gets out — Walter barred Turner from taking part in any “Internet or satellite radio programming” for three years after his release.
Turner’s attorney said he’ll appeal.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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