Original story: A stay-at-home dad who police said drove while on methadone with four children in the car, hitting and killing a bicyclist last November, is due back in Riverhead Justice Court Wednesday.
And Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota — and the victim's family — have expressed frustration that initial charges against Middle Island resident William Slatton, 30, could be dropped.
Originally, Slatton was charged with misdemeanor crimes – DWAI drugs, four counts of endangering the welfare of a child, and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree. The charges could have resulted in up to a year in jail.
Slatton, who was on probation at the time of the accident, pleaded not guilty to all charges.
According to the ADA at the time, Slatton had been convicted on felony and misdemeanor charges in the past, though did not specify. He also added that Slatton had three notices of failure to appear before courts.
Riverhead Police released a statement at the time of the accident alleging that Slatton was driving westbound on Route 25 on Thursday afternoon in the vicinity of Calverton National Cemetery when he veered off the road, into oncoming traffic heading eastbound, and into bicyclist Steven F. Kane, who authorities said was pronounced dead on the scene.
The incident occurred just after 1:30 p.m. police said, and despite efforts to revive Kane on the scene by passing motorists and a Ridge fire chief, the man was pronounced dead at the scene by Wading River Fire Department paramedics. He was transported to the Suffolk County Medical Examiner's Office in Hauppauge.
Slatton's attorney Joseph Cozzo said recently that he hoped a "resolution" of the case could come Wednesday and that his goal was to have the charges dropped or dismissed.
This week, the Suffolk County District Attorney's office explained why the initial charges could be dismissed, except aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree.
District Attorney Thomas Spota's representative Robert Clifford said toxicology tests showed Slatton had the presence of an opiate in his blood, the opiate being methadone.
“This defendant has been in a methadone maintenance treatment program, an established and effective therapy for the treatment of heroin addiction, as directed by the court to be an element of his probation,” Clifford said.
He said specially-trained prosecutors assigned to the Vehicular Crimes Bureau were, after a thorough investigation, left with the fact that the presence of the legally administered methadone in the defendant’s blood was not evidence that Slatton was “opiate-impaired” at the time of the accident.
A metabolite of marijuana, also detected after tests and analysis of Slatton’s blood by the Suffolk County Crime Lab, indicated the defendant “recently” used marijuana but not when.
“This investigation, and significantly, the toxicology results of the defendant’s blood, have not provided Vehicular Crimes Bureau prosecutors with the evidence necessary to prove our burden of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt as to the charge of driving while ability impaired,” said Clifford.
But Clifford said the goal was to seek jail time for Slatton's probation violation, a separate case that's ongoing.
"The district attorney’s office is actively prosecuting Slatton for violating his probation for which prosecutors will seek jail time for a conviction," Clifford said.
Last year, Kane's family spoke out when, two weeks after the car crash that took the life of the Brookhaven National Lab safety engineer and avid cyclist Kane, bail was reduced to $1000 for Slatton.
Cozzo said at the time that Slatton was "extremely remorseful" over the situation, and said that the accident occurred while Slatton was passing a beverage to one of the kids in his car. Cozzo added that Slatton was on his way home from a methadone clinic in Riverhead at the time of the crash.
Kane's brother Michael said his family remains shocked at the justice system.
"We're not going to bring my brother back, but where is the protection for the next Steven?" Kane asked. "He sat in jail for 20 days for killing my brother, before he was released on bail, because of the way the system works. It just amazes me."
He added, "I'm upset; the system is failing my family, my brother, and people every day. There’s just no justice to stop these people from ever doing it again."
The long court process, Kane added, has been draining for his family. "We're coming up to the anniversary of my brother's death and the end result is that there is nothing in the judicial system that could give us any sense of satisfaction.
Because he said that there seems to be no justice ahead, Kane added, "There's no closure of his death. If at some point there was justice, the healing process would begin. But every time we go to court, it's salt in the wound. Every time, we go back to square one, to the day he died."
"That's the kind of person he was," he said.