West Islip resident Jesse Cohen, 25, has been indicted and arraigned on charges related to a traffic crash that he caused in 2017, which left New York State Police trooper Joseph Gallagher with serious injuries, Westchester County District Attorney Anthony Scarpino, Jr., announced on Tuesday.
The Westchester DA’s office was appointed as a special prosecutor in the case after the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office recused themselves due to a conflict, Scarpino noted.
Shortly before 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 18, 2017, Gallagher was assisting a motorist with a disabled vehicle on an overpass of the Sagtikos Parkway that connects to the Long Island Expressway in Smithtown. Gallagher closed one lane, blocking the rear of the vehicle with his patrol car with its lights on.
Scarpino said that Gallagher proceeded to mark off the area with road flares to divert traffic around the police cruiser and disabled vehicle. The indictment alleges that Cohen failed to move to the right and drove his car into Gallagher.
According to the indictment, data from Cohen’s phone determined that he sent and received dozens of text messages in a number of separate conversation in the 20 minutes leading up to the crash.
Gallagher remains in a rehabilitation facility and is still severely disabled. He remains under constant care and is unable to walk, talk or eat on his own due to the injuries sustained from Cohen’s crash.
New York State Police Troop L Commander Major David Candelaria said, “texting while driving is dangerous for the driver, other motorists and our first responders who are working to protect the driving public. The deaths and injuries caused by distracted driving are 100 percent preventable. This crash that severely disabled Trooper Gallagher was preventable. We urge all drivers to put down your device. Your choice could save a life.”
A Suffolk County grand jury indicted Cohen on a charge of assault in the third degree with criminal negligence. He was arraigned in Suffolk County Court in Central Islip on Tuesday and released on his own recognizance. Cohen is scheduled to appear in court on May 7. If convicted. Cohen will face up to one year in prison.
“This is the type of accident that never should have happened. It is our job to see this case is prosecuted fairly to the fullest extent of the law,” Scarpino stated. “Drivers need to understand distracted driving costs lives in many different ways. They must realize the enormity of distracted driving’s potential consequences and the harm it can do to themselves and others. Our thoughts remain with Trooper Gallagher and his family.”
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