Salvatore Distefano, 29, of 923 Kirkland Court, was charged with driving while intoxicated, third-degree assault and violation of New York State's “move over law.”
Investigators said Suffolk County Police Highway Patrol Officer Brian Smales was conducting a search of a crime scene on Sunrise Highway between North Ocean Avenue and Waverly Avenue in Patchogue around 7:12 p.m. on Sunday.
The officer pulled his marked police patrol vehicle on the right hand shoulder of westbound Sunrise Highway. He then activated his emergency lights “in an effort to make the scene safe for search,” said police. Detectives said Officer Smales was searching a crime scene from a fatal accident that occurred earlier in the day.
Shortly after parking his cruiser, police said Distefano, who was driving a 2012 Chrysler 200, barreled into the rear of the police car. “An investigation revealed that Distefano acted recklessly by failing to exercise care by slowing down and moving over to safely pass an emergency vehicle, in violation of New York State's 'move over law',” police said in a statement.
In court Monday, prosecutors said Distefano admitted to police that he had been drinking after work and officers observed "indicators of intoxication during a field sobriety test." He refused a portable breath test at the scene, but a blood test was taken after the accident. The results of that blood test were not available at the time of arraignment. Prosecutors also said they are evaluating the possibility of upgrading the charges.
According to prosecutors, Distefano also has a previous conviction for driving while ability impaired in 2011. Judge G. Ann Spelman ordered Distefano's license be suspended and set $5,000 bail or $10,000 bond, noting the seriousness of the charges.
Outside the courtroom, Distefano's attorney, Cary David Kessler of Jericho, declined to comment specifically on the case but said “My client does express the fact that the officer is out of the hospital and that's a good thing. The family is grateful that Police Officer Smales is on the mend.”
Distefano was arrested at the scene of the accident and was then transported to Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in East Patchogue for treatment of facial lacerations. He was released late Sunday. Two other passengers in his car were also treated for minor injuries, prosecutors noted.
Officer Smales was airlifted by police helicopter to Stony Brook University Hospital, where he was treated for injuries to his head, neck, back, and leg, police said. The officer was treated and released from the hospital.
Distefano did not immediately post bail after arraignment and remains in custody, as of this writing. He is due back in court on March 11.
Vehicular crimes detectives are continuing an investigation and ask anyone with information to call investigators at 631-852-6295.