Freeport man pleads not guilty to manslaughter, DWI in NHP crash

Freeport man pleads not guilty to manslaughter, DWI in NHP crash
A memorial for the three women killed in a car crash in May stands outside The Inn at New Hyde Park. The driver charged with killing them has pleaded not guilty to the charges, according to officials. (Photo by Jessica Ren)

A Freeport driver Monday pleaded not guilty to charges of manslaughter and DWI in a New Hyde Park car crash earlier this year that killed three women who were leaving a family member’s Sweet 16 party, according to officials.

Dante Lennon, 22, showed up in a wheelchair at his Monday arraignment after he  sustained injuries in the May 21 car crash on Jericho Turnpike, according to Newsday. Lennon faces charges of first and second-degree vehicular manslaughter, aggravated vehicular homicide, driving while intoxicated, reckless driving as well as second and third-degree assault, according to officials.

Robert Gottlieb, Lennon’s attorney, informed Acting State Supreme Court Judge Tammy S. Robbins that his client might ask for a bail adjustment down the line after his family had trouble posting the previously set $425,000 bond, Newsday reported.

Efforts to reach Gottlieb for further comment were unavailing.

Lennon was behind the wheel of a speeding 2012 Mercedes-Benz sedan that struck a 2010 Lincoln Town Car carrying six people outside of The Inn on the eastbound lane of Jericho Turnpike May 21, police said.

The three backseat passengers—Marlene Lu and Ho Hua, both of Queens, and Tu Nguyen from North Carolina—were pronounced dead at the scene. The driver and two other passengers in the Lincoln were taken to local hospitals and were in stable condition after the accident, officials said.

Officials said the women were leaving a Sweet 16 celebration at the venue prior to the crash. Police said Lu was the mother of the host of the Sweet 16 party, while Hua was the host’s aunt and Nguyen the host’s cousin.

The other individuals in the Lincoln were a 73-year-old man, a 67-year-old man and a 42-year-old man, officials said. The 67-year-old man’s clavicle was fractured, while the 42-year-old man suffered from broken ribs and both were hospitalized after the accident, police said. The 73-year-old man was discharged from the hospital two days after the incident, suffering from neck and back pain, according to officials.

According to court documents, Lennon acknowledged he had consumed alcoholic beverages before driving. His preliminary blood alcohol content of .88% was higher than the legal limit of .08%, according to the documents. 

Gottlieb previously described his client as “a very good and decent young man who is distraught by what happened” to Newsday.

Michael McCutchen, a security guard at The Inn who opened the door for the guests and saw them leave the spot, told Newsday the crash “sounded like a bomb went off.”

Efforts to reach a representative from The Inn at New Hyde Park or officials from the Nassau County Police Department for further comment were unavailing. 

New Hyde Park Mayor Christopher Devane said he is proposing a “no left turn” sign where Lennon’s car was turning eastbound onto Jericho Turnpike from S. 3rd Street along with a speed camera on Jericho Turnpike, installing a traffic light and potentially making the S. 3rd Street a one-way road. Devane said he has spoken with officials from the state Transportation Department and plans to discuss the proposals further.


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