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.”