James Ryan sentenced to up to 12 years in cop Olivieri’s death

James Ryan sentenced to up to 12 years in cop Olivieri’s death

The man convicted of causing the death of Nassau County police officer Joseph Olivieri while driving drunk was sentenced to up to 12 years in prison Wednesday, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced last Wednesday.

“There are no winners today but there is responsibility and justice must be served,” Singas said. “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.”

James Ryan, 29, of Oakdale, was found guilty of aggravated criminally negligent homicide and second-degree manslaughter after a five-week trial on Feb. 11.

Nassau County Judge Phillip Grella sentenced Ryan to five years in prison on the aggravated criminally negligent homicide conviction, the DA’s office said, and four to 12 years on the manslaughter conviction.

“Justice requires that the criminal defendant is held accountable for his criminal actions and this trial. This conviction and this sentencing represent that accountability,” Singas said. “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.”

At 4:43 a.m. on Oct. 18, 2012, a car driven by Ryan crashed into and disabled a car while he was driving drunk on the Long Island Expressway. He then fled the scene, driving toward the Shelter Rock Road exit.

His car then hit another car, which injured the driver and caused Ryan’s car to stop against the center divider on the highway, prosecutors said.

Olivieri, a member of the Nassau County Highway Patrol Bureau, responded to the scene.

Francis Belizaire’s Cadillac Escalade hit and killed him while he was caring for injured drivers in the HOV lane.

Belizaire, 50, of Bay Shore, testified in court on Jan. 25 that he did not have enough time to avoid Olivieri, who was standing in the HOV lane on the Long Island Expressway, according to Newsday.

“When I saw Officer Olivieri, I tried to brake my vehicle and swerve to the right,” Belizaire said in court. “I tried my best not to drive into him but I just didn’t have enough time.”

A grand jury indicted Ryan in April 2013, but county Judge Jerald Carter dismissed the indictment that December.

The DA’s office appealed the case to state Appellate Division, which reinstated the charges in February.

Ryan’s attorney Zeena Abdi told jurors Belizaire was responsible for Olivieri’s death, not Ryan, according to Newsday.

“Make no mistake, James Ryan did not hit Officer Olivieri,” Abdi said. “James Ryan did not kill Officer Olivieri. James Ryan did not cause his death.”

Belizaire, who was driving in the HOV lane, testified that he saw police lights flashing in front of him but also saw cars pulled over to the right of him on the highway, so he did not move out of the lane, according to Newsday.

He said he saw Olivieri when he was about two car lengths away from him in front of Ryan’s Toyota Camry.

“I couldn’t move, I was in shock,” Belizaire said.

Belizaire was granted immunity by the Nassau County District Attorney’s office after it was determined his actions were not criminal.

Ryan was acquitted of the grand jury indictment charges of aggravated vehicular homicide, second-degree assault and second-degree vehicular assault.

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