A man who was convicted in the death of a police officer was sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison, even though the officer was struck by another motorist.
James Ryan was convicted in February in the death of Nassau County Officer James Olivieri in October 2012. Prosecutors said Ryan’s reckless driving caused the chain-reaction crash that killed Olivieri.
The case was watched closely by legal experts, who said it was rare for someone other than a driver directly involved in a crash to be charged. The charges were based on the legal principle of “causation/foreseeability,” in which suspects are charged in events that are foreseeable of their actions.
A jury found the Ryan, 28, guilty of 10 of 13 charges but acquitted him of the most serious one — aggravated vehicular homicide. Ryan tearfully apologized before being sentenced.
“Words can’t express how deeply sorry I am for your loss,” Ryan said to the courtroom audience, which included Olivieri’s relatives. “Officer Olivieri was a great man.”
Ryan’s Toyota hit a BMW on the Long Island Expressway after Ryan spent a night drinking. After stopping, he was then hit by another car. A few minutes later, an SUV driver smashed into Ryan’s car before hitting Olivieri, who was out of his car talking to Ryan.
In one such causation case from 1994, a New York City man was convicted of murder in the death of an officer who had been chasing after him in a robbery investigation and fell to his death through a skylight.
“Drunk drivers kill, and they will be held accountable,” wsaid DA Madeline Singas. “We are thankful that justice was served today.”