Central Islip (WALK) - He's going to prison, but many observers believe the sentence isn't long enough.
Suffolk District Attorney Tom Spota is renewing his call for tougher penalties for anyone convicted of a hit-and-run following the sentencing of Peter Torrillo of Eastport in the death of a young mother on Montauk Highway last year. Torrillo was given the maximum 2-1/2 to 7 years in prison at a court proceeding yesterday.
Torrillo, 48, pleaded guilty last month to running down Erika Strebel of Eastport and leaving her to die in the street. Strebel, 27, and her brother-in-law, Edward Barton of East Moriches, were both hit as they stood by her disabled car last November. Barton survived but is still recovering from head and leg injuries.
Spota says Torrillo had a prior conviction for driving while impaired but investigators can't say if he was under the influence when he struck Strebel because he fled the scene.
“A drunk or drug impaired driver who kills someone may face up to 25 years in prison," said Spota. "But fleeing the accident scene allows the wrongdoer a chance to sober up and, under the current law, any driver guilty of a hit and run faces a maximum prison sentence of seven years, even when someone dies and even if the defendant has a prior felony record."
Prosecutors say Torrillo went home after the accident, changed his clothes and went out to a bar, then drove to Queens the next day to have his pickup truck repaired by a friend who owned a body shop. He was arrested after the county crime lab matched paint chips at the scene to his truck.
Strebel left behind a young son who is now 6 years old.
A change in state law would be required to increase penalties for hit-and-run drivers, and Spota hopes the State Legislature acts quickly.
"I urge the state Senate and Assembly, now in the final weeks of their legislative session in Albany, to vote for a tougher sentence and more than double the maximum punishment for a convicted hit and run driver," Spota said in a statement. "It’s time to close this loophole in the state’s vehicle and traffic law and give us the tools to ensure that intoxicated drivers are held accountable.”
Photo: Suffolk District Attorney's Office