Edward Orr will likely spend 4 to 5 years in state prison on charges related to the hit-and-run accident that killed a 61-year-old pedestrian in October, according to his defense attorney.
Last Wednesday, Orr pleaded guilty to two felonies — leaving the scene of an accident with a fatality and criminal tampering with physical evidence — in connection with the accident that killed John Judge as he crossed Main Street after having dinner at Astro's Pizza on the night of Oct. 23.
The Suffolk County District Attorney's office said it will recommend 2 to 6 years incarceration in a state prison, inciting Judge's friends and supporters to organize a vigil/rally on Monday night.
If the judge does in fact sentence him to 2 to 6 years, Gordon Ryan said on Monday that he expects his client to serve at least 4 to 5 years of the sentence. "There's no way he'll serve the minimum because of his record," which includes a felony conviction for which he was serving probation at the time of the accident, Ryan said. That decision, however, ultimately rests with the Department of Corrections and the parole board.
"Mr. Orr has confessed to everything," Ryan said, though a misdemeanor criminal mischief charge was dismissed in satisfaction of his guilty plea. Orr admitted to striking Judge with his Jeep Cherokee — he told police he thought he hit a deer — and then drove away without reporting the accident. He never came forward after learning someone had been killed. He tried to cover up what happened by staging a second accident in Montauk, and then having his Jeep voluntarily repossessed.
Based on the body of evidence the police department gathered, as well as a five-page confession, Ryan said, "He was doomed. There was no chance, in my opinion, of him prevailing at a trial." Instead of "wasting everyone's time" by dragging out the case or going to a trial, Orr "stepped up to the plate" on the first date his case was on the judge's calendar for a conference. "He's taking the punishment the DA wanted," Ryan said.
The recommended sentence is one year of shy of the maximum sentence on the top count; leaving the scene of an accident with a fatality, a class D felony. A guilty plea "saves the system a lot of time, a lot of money, a lot of work."
Ryan said it is important to note there was no negotiating as there often is with plea deals. "The district attorney was demanding from the onset state prison time," he said.
"I think the anger of Mr. Judge's friends — what they are not taking into account is that he's not considered to have caused [the accident]," Ryan said.
At sentencing on April 24, Ryan expects that Judge William Condon take into account a few facts: "Mr. Orr was not intoxicated at the time of the accident, which is huge because most people assume with a hit and run that somebody flees so that they can sober up," Ryan said. Orr was coming from Phoenix House, an outpatient treatment facility, and his attorney said he has proof Orr was not intoxicated. "Orr is not being charged with causing the accident. He's being charged with his terrible decisions afterwards."
Orr has not been charged with any type of "negligent behavior" leading up to the accident, such as leaving the roadway or crossing into the opposite lane. "He's charged with failing to report it," Ryan said.
Ryan declined to speculate as to what caused Orr to hit Judge, whether it was the lack of lighting in the area or if Judge stepped out in front of the vehicle as he crossed the street.
"Poor Mr. Judge, who was apparently very well liked around town, he gets hit by a car, and Mr. Orr's life gets upheaved," Ryan said. "I'm sure he regrets his decisions and this whole event is a tragedy for everyone involved."
Orr will have a chance to speak at his sentencing in Suffolk County Criminal Court on April 24.