A grand jury handed down an indictment Wednesday against the driver suspected in the hit-and-run accident in Amagansett that killed a 61-year-old pedestrian in October.
Edward L. Orr, a 30-year-old from Montauk, faces a three count indictment, including the felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident, brought against him after his arrest last week, as well as additional charges of tampering with physical evidence, a felony, and a misdemeanor charge of fourth-degree criminal mischief, according to online court records.
Orr reportedly confessed. According to one of the complaints filed against him, he told investigating detectives after being arrested on Feb. 7, “I did it. I hit him.”
While Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas J. Spota's spokesman Robert Clifford confirmed the indictment, the office does not release information on the charges until the indictment is unsealed in court, which is scheduled before Suffolk County Criminal Court Judge William Condon in Riverhead on Friday.
As of Wednesday evening, Orr was still in the custody of the Suffolk County Sheriff's deputies at the jail, where he is being held on $250,000 cash or $500,000 bond.
Following a three-month investigation, East Hampton Town police detectives identified the vehicle that struck John Judge as he crossed Main Street in Amagansett on the evening of Oct. 23, and arrested Orr last week.
With no witnesses to the crash, police were left with only the color paint of the vehicle that eventually tracked to a 2004 Jeep Cherokee. Police claim Orr was driving on the night of the accident, and left Judge bleeding in the street, where he was found by a passerby.
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Even with a confession, prosecutors were hard pressed to file more serious charges than the top charge of leaving the scene of an accident, in which a fatality occurred, a class D felony that is punishable by up to 7 years in prison.
Just in recent weeks, Spota has joined state legislators from the East End who have called for stiffer penalties for hit-and-run drivers. Proposed legislation would ensure greater punishment for drivers who leave an accident.
Proposed legislation would upgrade the crime of leaving the scene of an incident resulting in a death from a class D felony to a class C felony, which has a maximum prison time of 15 years. Other types of hit-and-run offenses would also be upgraded.
According to Sen. Lee Zeldin, R-Shirley, a co-sponsor of the bill with Sen. Kenneth P. LaValle, R-Port Jefferson, the bill was created in the wake of the death of Erika Hughes, a 24-year-old from Mastic, who was killed in a 2011 hit-and-run. The driver, Preston Mimms, 48, was eventually caught and pleaded guilty in December, but his sentence of one-and-a-third to four years in prison outraged her family.
At a press conference last month following the arrest of a driver who allegedly fled after striking and killing a man in Riverhead in late December, Spota said such drivers prevent the victim from getting medical care immediately, and also make it nearly impossible to determine if the driver was intoxicated or impaired by drugs at the time of the crash, which could elevate charges.
Under current law drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol often receive less of a punishment if they flee the scene of an accident, according to Zeldin's office.
There are certain circumstances in which criminal negligence can be proven in a hit-and-run case, but are often based on statements defendants make to the police.
In one of the South Fork's most notorious hit-and-run accidents, Leslie Jennemann was convicted of elevated charges in the hit-and-run death of a 38-year-old migrant worker was killed in Sagaponack in 2002. She was sentenced to 2 to 6 years following a guilty verdict on second-degree manslaughter and leaving the scene without reporting.
A grand jury indicted her in March 2003, handing up a 17-count indictment, including manslaughter, leaving the scene, evidence tampering, insurance fraud, reckless endangerment, and speeding, according to an article at the time in The New York Daily News. Police initially charged her with leaving the scene and evidence tampering.