Mineola, NY - March 9th, 2016 - Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said that an Oakdale man convicted of driving drunk and causing the death of Nassau County Police Officer Joseph Olivieri has been sentenced to up to 12 years in prison today.
Nassau County Court of Claims Judge Philip Grella sentenced James Ryan, 29, to five years in prison for the top count of Aggravated Criminally Negligent Homicide (a C violent felony), and to four to 12 years in prison for Manslaughter in the 2nd Degree (a C felony).
Judge Grella also sentenced Ryan to lesser concurrent sentences for lesser charges in the case, as well as six months of driver license revocation and the installation of an ignition interlock device after his release from prison.
“It is another sad day,” DA Singas said after the sentence. “When one of our police officers is killed in the line of duty responding to a crime, our entire community is made less safe. There are no winners today but there is responsibility and justice must be served. This defendant was drunk, he was speeding and driving wildly, he crashed, he fled the scene, he caused another crash injuring an off-duty NYPD detective and he created a crime scene littered with disabled cars that invited the final crash that took Officer Olivieri’s life. Justice requires that the criminal defendant is held accountable for his criminal actions and this trial, this conviction and this sentencing represent that accountability.”
After a five-week trial and three days of deliberations, a jury convicted Ryan on Feb. 11 of the following charges:
Aggravated Criminally Negligent Homicide (a C violent felony)
- Manslaughter in the 2nd Degree (a C felony)
- Vehicular Manslaughter in the 2nd Degree (a D felony)
- Criminally Negligent Homicide (an E felony)
- Assault in the 3rd Degree (an A misdemeanor)
- Reckless Driving (an A misdemeanor)
- Reckless Endangerment in the 2nd Degree (an A misdemeanor)
- Two counts of Operating a Motor Vehicle While Under the Influence of Alcohol (an unclassified misdemeanor)
- Leaving the Scene of an Incident Without Reporting (a traffic infraction)
The conviction on Aggravated Criminally Negligent Homicide is the fourth ever conviction on that charge in New York State.
DA Singas said that on October 18, 2012 at 4:43 a.m., Ryan was driving while intoxicated on the Long Island Expressway when he struck the back of a 2008 BMW causing the wheel to break and the BMW to become disabled, while Ryan fled the scene toward exit 35, Shelter Rock Road.
Ryan then caused a crash with a 2005 Honda, injuring its driver, off-duty NYPD Detective Edward Wilson, and causing his car to come to rest perpendicularly across the High Occupancy Vehicle lane near the concrete center divider. Thirteen-year veteran Nassau County Highway Patrol Bureau Police Officer Joseph Olivieri responded to the collision and within minutes was struck and killed by another motorist while he was tending to Ryan and the road was being closed down.
Ryan was indicted for Aggravated Vehicular Homicide and other charges on April 3, 2013. The indictment was dismissed as legally insufficient by the Hon. Jerald Carter on Dec. 16, 2013; the District Attorney’s Office appealed the dismissal to the Appellate Division Second Department, which reinstated the indictment on Feb. 4, 2015.
The defense sought leave to argue before the Court of Appeals, which was denied May 7, 2015. The defense attempted to reargue the leave application, which was also denied on July 28, 2015, exhausting all of the defense pre-trial appellate applications.
“This prosecution represents the first time a DWI driver is being charged for an officer’s death under these circumstances and I believe it is essential that we take on this unique fight for Police Officer Joseph Olivieri and his fellow officers who continue to be endangered by the criminal acts of others,” then-Acting District Attorney Madeline Singas said in 2015.
“Officer Olivieri was killed in the line of duty because James Ryan was committing a crime when he drove drunk, crashed and fled the scene and those criminal acts put Officer Olivieri directly in harm’s way.”
Ryan was acquitted of the grand jury indictment charges of Aggravated Vehicular Homicide, Assault in the 2nd Degree and Vehicular Assault in the 2nd Degree.
Executive Assistant District Attorney Maureen McCormick and ADA Michael Bushwack, Deputy Bureau Chief of DA Singas’ Vehicular Crimes Bureau, are prosecuting the case. Ryan is represented by Marc Gann and Zeena Abdi, Esqs.