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Schettinos Head to Civil Court for Answers in Son’s Death

Blue Point family continues to seek answers about why their teenager was killed on the LIE.

Jo Ann Schettino isn’t seeking to avenge the death of her 18-year-old son Billy. She and her husband, Luigi, simply want answers about how and why the Bayport-Blue Point graduate was killed in March after his disabled car was struck by a Suffolk County Sheriff's Deputy.

The Blue Point couple said they also want accountability, and they hope to find both with a civil lawsuit they have filed against Suffolk County, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department and Deputy Sheriff Richard Tedesco, the driver of the vehicle that struck Billy's car.

“It shouldn’t have happened and we still have so many unanswered questions about what happened, how many cars were involved, why it happened,” Jo Ann Schettino told Patch.

The lawsuit, filed last month by the firm Rosenberg & Gluck of Holtsville has no specific award amount. According to the family’s attorney, Ted Rosenberg, the legal action could take months or years.

“Our position is that Tedesco was not careful, he struck a car in broad daylight. We’re seeking what’s reasonable in this regard,” he told Patch in a phone interview.

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The Suffolk County Sheriffs Department referred an inquiry by Patch about the lawsuit to the county's attorney office citing policy.

The law firm is requesting a slew of information from the District Attorney’s office such as sheriff car videos and other evidence from a criminal investigation of the case. The District Attorney's office could not be immediately reached for comment.

This past week, the DA's office informed the Schettinos that a Suffolk County grand jury declined to bring a charge of criminally negligent homicide against Tedesco following five days of testimony by 18 witnesses and presentation of 32 exhibits.

Of those 18 witnesses, 12 were civilians including eyewitness, employees of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s office, the Suffolk County Criminalistics laboratory and a New York State police accident reconstruction expert and other “law enforcement witnesses,” according to a letter hand delivered this past Friday to the family by the DA’s office.

The letter does provide information that will likely prove helpful to the civil case, said Rosenberg.

“It clearly states that a contributing factor was that the driver was driving too fast,” said Rosenberg.

The letter states that a state police accident reconstruction concluded “contributing causative factors in the collision were the speed of the deputy’s vehicle and the environmental factor of sung glare at the time of the collision.”

The letter states Billy was traveling westbound on the LIE and was involved in a one-car collision where he struck the concrete westbound barrier on the LIE under the Ronkonkoma Avenue overpass with the driver side of his car.

“This accident was corroborated by the physical evidence and by eyewitness,” states the letter.

Billy then continued driving westbound and came to a stop in the HOV lane east of Exit 50, according to the letter. At that point he called home to ask his mom to come and help him.

“I told him I’d be right there and told him to call 911,” Jo Ann Schettino said.

According to the DA's letter, Billy, for an unknown reason, exited his vehicle and became a pedestrian on the LIE.

It was at that time a deputy sheriff, later identified as Tedesco, was traveling westbound in the HOV lane “on normal police patrol (and) suddenly observed Williams’s vehicle in the travel portion of the HOV lane,” states the letter.

The deputy, who is not named in the DA’s letter, then took “evasive action, braking and swerving left in an effort to avoid a collision with William’s vehicle,” according to the letter.

“The Deputy's vehicle came into contact with the rear driver side of Williams vehicle and struck William who was standing in the HOV land next to his vehicle,” states the letter, which also states that "multiple civilian eyewitnesses reported extensive sun glare" at the time of the accident.

The state police accident report, according to the letter, concluded that “primary causative factors” were the car in the travel portion of the road and Billy Schettino standing in the roadway. The other “contributing” factor was the sun glare issue.

But the family believes sun glare was not a factor given information they’ve learned, and believe the deputy’s car was moved before other law enforcement arrived at the scene and the accident report was initiated.

“There are just so many unanswered questions. We’ve had people tell us that sun glare wasn’t an issue,” said Jo Ann Schettino. “We just want the truth.”

Andrea Gallo DiLoreto August 15, 2012 at 11:39 PM
What a shame that the parents of this boy even have to go this far to get the information they so deserve. What they are asking for....a plain and simple answer to their question should be met without all of the legal hassle. I still can't help but think that if the tables were turned, this child would have been hauled off to jail..... heartbreaking that this family has to endure yet more pain to get an answer. That's all they want. An answer. They also deserve a big time apology from the Sheriff's office as well as the Sheriff driving that vehicle. It's a sad sad situation, and they shouldn't have to take it this far.
Andrea Gallo DiLoreto August 15, 2012 at 11:48 PM
@ Tracy F. Yes, this was a tragic accident. it is not known or probably will ever be known if this Sheriff was or wasn't doing something illegal that caused this. Now, the problem lies with getting the questions that the family has answered honestly and truthfully. Put yourself in the shoes of the parents of this child. Wouldn't you want to know exactly what happened to your child? I know I would. I don't think assigned blame is a factor, because it is obvious by the outcome. It is troublesome to me that there was an entire hearing, and the parents were notified after the fact by a letter. Wouldn't you want to at least sit in or have a representative sit in to get some facts? The whole entire way this thing was handled was suspect. I think that is why so many people are up in arms over the decision.
Andrea Gallo DiLoreto August 15, 2012 at 11:54 PM
@ Sean Gregg- Good luck with that. I don't think any records of any kind would be handed over without a huge legal fight. It would be interesting to know if your suspicions proved to be true. And there is also the fact that if there is nothing to hide, then someone would willingly and openly hand over whatever they had to to prove once and for all that texting and driving, or anything else wasn't the case.
Vito August 16, 2012 at 03:05 AM
What you say is not true. I lost one family member and one dear friend to motor vehicle accidents and another family member was left severely brain damaged in a third accident. The causes of these accidents, in order, were a truck being driven at excess speed, a 17 year old boy losing control on a wet road due to driver inexperience, and an elderly woman driver that fell asleep at the wheel. None of these people were law enforcement officers and none were prosecuted or fined. The pain this young man's family has suffered is incalculable, and his loss is a true tragedy, however, sometimes an accident is just an accident.
confectioner August 16, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Slamming into a non-moving disabled car at high speed and killing the driver with that car is less like an accident and more like reckless behavior. It was the officer's job to protect the very person he killed, blaming the victim for not sitting in the non-moving vehicle, very classy indeed.

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