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Posted on: February 11, 2016

Jury Convicts Drunk Driver for Causing Death of Police Officer Responding to Crash Scene

MINEOLA, N.Y. – Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced that a jury has convicted a drunk driver of causing the death of a Nassau County police officer after the officer was struck by another driver while responding to a crash scene caused by the defendant.

After a five-week trial and three days of deliberations, a jury convicted James Ryan, 28, of Oakdale, 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 defendant faces a minimum of 3 1/2 to a maximum of 20 years in prison on the top count and was remanded after the verdict. Ryan is due back in court on March 9 for sentencing. 

“I am grateful the jury found that this drunk and reckless driver is criminally responsible for all of the consequences of his behavior, including the tragic death of Police Officer Joseph Olivieri,” DA Singas said. “I hope this conviction and the justice it represents gives the Olivieri family some comfort.”

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., James 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 and causing his car to come to rest perpendicular 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,” 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.

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