Family wants driver charged for allegedly texting when mother was killed

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The family of a woman who died after being hit by a car say they want the driver charged for texting while behind the wheel.

Barbara Rizzi, 70, was killed while crossing North Ocean Avenue in Patchogue to go to Christmas Mass in 2017.

The driver, 20-year-old Samantha Reyes, stayed at the scene and was not charged.

Police say she also willingly gave her cellphone to investigators.

Nicole Rizzi, one of Barbara Rizzi's daughters, says a detective on the case told her to look at Reyes' cellphone records. She requested them under the Freedom of Information Law.

According to Nicole Rizzi, the records indicate Reyes sent 11 text messages in almost three minutes before the fatal crash. The records show there was 32 seconds between the last message and Reyes calling her mother and boyfriend after the crash.

In a statement to police, Reyes said, "I don't remember if I was using my phone at the time of the crash" and "I just heard the crash and I was covered in glass."

The Suffolk Disctricy Attorney's Office met with the Rizzis to take a second look at the case, but it was never put before a grand jury. Rizzi wants her mother's case transferred to a district outside of Suffolk County because she feels it wasn't handled properly.

Legal experts say cellphone records alone are not enough to prove that someone was looking down and texting at the exact moment of the crash, or not using voice to text.

In other recent cases, witnesses have also been used to bring charges against a driver accused of texting.

The Suffolk County District Attorney's Office tells News 12 in a statement, “It is our legal responsibility to meticulously review the facts of every case that comes to our office through the lens of New York State criminal law. In each case, we conduct a thorough investigation, go where the evidence takes us and take all appropriate measures to ensure the law is being followed and justice is being served. Before seeking criminal charges or presenting facts to a grand jury, it is our ethical duty to ensure the facts of each case meet the standard set forth by the law.”

 

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