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DA spokesman: Case of Greenport man charged with DWI after fatal crash ‘remains under investigation’

Over a month after Greenport resident John Costello was charged with driving while intoxicated after a fatal  accident on Route 25, Robert Clifford, spokesman for Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota, said the case has not been presented to a grand jury.

“It remains under investigation,” Clifford said Wednesday.

In December, Costello, 71, represented by attorney Bill Keahon, faced Judge Rudolph Bruer in Southold Justice Court and pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated.

He was released on $250 bail.

Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Miller said that while the charge against him is currently a misdemeanor, that charge could be upgraded due to the fact that a man died in the accident.

On December 6, Costello was driving home from the Greenport Harbor Brewing Company, where he’d consumed beer, she said. Costello, Miller said, “drifted” over the double yellow line and crashed head on into a car, killing Miguel Bartolone, 31, 0f Peconic. Police, she said, noted that Costello had “bloodshot, glassy eyes” with breath that “smelled of alcohol.”

Costello, she said, consented to a blood test, and his blood alcohol content, or BAC, was .17, over twice the legal limit of .08.

Despite the fact that Costello has ties to  the community, Miller said he also has the financial means to “flee”. She asked that bail be raised to $100,000 cash or $200,000 bond.

Keahon said he took “issue” with the ADA’s statement that Costello had “drifted. My client is not at fault,” he said, adding that the driver of the other car, Oseas Manell Ramirez, 22, of Peconic, was unlicensed.

He also said Costello had consumed only two beers over a one-and-a-half hour period. He said Costello had lifetime roots in the community, a broken neck, no prior arrests or warrants, and had spent a lifetime giving back to the community, including the creation of 87 affordable housing units. As a first time offender, if convicted, Keahon said Costello would have the charged reduced to ability impaired and would be facing only community service.

Should the charges be upgraded, Keahon said bail could be reconsidered at that time.

Judge Bruer said he’d known Costello for “30 to 40 years. I have no doubt that he’ll return to  court. My daughter and his son dated. I consider him a friend.” Bruer said he’d likely recuse himself at Costello’s next court appearance on January 30, and left the bail at $250.

Costello was driving eastbound in his 2008 Chevy pickup truck when he crossed over the double yellow line into the oncoming lane on Route 25 in Greenport and crashed into a 2006 Honda driven by Ramirez, according to police.

Bartolone died of his injuries at Stony Brook University Hospital.

Southold Town police arrested  Costello and charged him with of driving while intoxicated, a misdemeanor. While hospitalized, he posted $250 bail and was issued a desk appearance ticket.

Ramirez was treated at ELIH and released.

Costello was transported to ELIH and then taken by ambulance to Stony Brook University Hospital, according to a police press release.

Investigations by  Southold police and the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office continue, police said.

Costello is the owner of Costello Marine Contracting in Greenport, police confirmed Sunday; he is also a former Greenport Village Trustee.

Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley  said while it was raining heavily at the time of the accident, Flatley said it has not yet been determined if the weather was a factor in the crash.

Editor’s note:   A criminal charge is an accusation. By law, a person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.