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Update: Judge sets bail at $50K bond after fatal crash, manslaughter charges for John Costello

Update: 2:57 p.m.: After facing the judge today, Greenport resident John Costello left a court in Islip after being ordered to pay $50,000 bond.

According to Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota’s office, the DA originaly asked for $100,000 cash or $300,000 bond; the judge decided on the $50,000 bond.

Costello pleaded not guilty to the seven count indictment, according to Spota. The indictment charges Costello with manslaughter in the second degree, vehicular manslaughter in the second degree, driving while intoxicated, assault in the third degree and failing to stay in a designated lane.

His next court date is March 26.

Original:  An arraignment for John Costello, charged with driving while intoxicated after a fatal Greenport crash on Route 25 will take place today.

Costello is scheduled for arraignment on an indictment in Central Islip before State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho on the third floor of First District Courthouse ,where the indictment will be unsealed. The court calendar starts at 9:30 am.

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said erime lab tests of Costello’s blood established he had a blood-alcohol level of .17 after the collision on Route 25 on December 6, over twice the legal limit.

Costello drove his pickup truck into the oncoming lane and struck a car head-on, killing Miguel Bartolone, 31, of Peconic, he said.

Initially scheduled for last Wednesday, according to Bob Clifford, spokesman for Spota, William Keahon, Costello’s attorney, asked that the matter be adjourned until February 17.

In January, a Suffolk County grand jury indicted Costello, 71, Spota sad.

According to online Suffolk County Criminal Court records, Costello was indicted on one count of manslaughter, recklessly causing death, a C felony, one count of vehicular manslaughter in the second degree, a D felony,  as well as misdemeanor charges.

A passenger in the vehicle Costello struck, Miguel Bartolone, 31, of Peconic, died of his injuries at Stony Brook University Hospital.

The issue of bail — currently, Costello’s bail remains at the original $250 — will be addressed at that time, according to Spota’s office.

In December, using a walker and with a brace on his broken neck, Costello faced Judge Rudolph Bruer in Southold Justice Court.

Represented by high-profile attorney Keahon, who said his client pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated, Costello was surrounded by family as he sat quietly in the courtroom.

Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Miller said on December 6, Costello was driving home from the Greenport Harbor Brewing Company, where he’d consumed beer. Costello, she said, “drifted” over the double yellow line and crashed head on into a car, killing Bartolone. 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 said 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. 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 $250 bail in place.

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.

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

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.