An organized group of men and women helped keep Lisa Rooney, the Montauk woman charged with homicide for the death of John James Usma-Quintero last October, from reporters outside the Riverhead courtroom of New York State Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen March 6.
Rooney’s attorney, Marc Gann, following the entourage that locked arms in front of Rooney and pushed back reporters and photographers, said his client is “remorseful” and “distraught,” and that she might soon write a letter to the family of the deceased expressing her sorrow for what happened.
On October 30, shortly after sunset, Rooney was behind the wheel of a 2019 Silverado pickup headed north on Flamingo Avenue when she struck Usma-Quintero, who was bicycling up the hill, according to the police. She was allegedly doing 85 miles per hour, and was extremely intoxicated, triggering the vehicular homicide charge, which can only be made if the district attorney believes it can be proven that the driver’s blood/alcohol percentage was high enough.
According to the first East Hampton town police officer to arrive on the scene after Rooney’s truck crashed into a guardrail about 50 yards from where Usma-Quintero was struck, Rooney was unaware that she had hit the
Rooney, the owner of Girltauk, has surrounded herself with a couple dozen supporters during each court appearance since her arrest on October 30. The deceased, on the other hand, has been supported by his cousin, Jennifer Cano. She sat on the other side of the courtroom from Rooney and her group, with Usma-Quintero’s girlfriend Valentina Garcia.
After his death, Usma-Quintero’s body was cremated, and his ashes were returned to his native Colombia, where his two daughters live. He was in the United States for several summers on a work visa.
“The mother is devastated,” Cano said on Sunday. “She cries every day.”
Usma-Quintero’s youngest daughter, who is eight years old, is constantly asking when her father will come home, Cano said.
“They need help,” Cano said of the family.
When asked how she feels when she sees Rooney and her crowd of supporters, Cano said, “It is hard. They still have their friend,” she said. “This is the thing. You are going to see your friend again. I am not going to see my cousin again. Ever. All I can see is a picture.”
The March 6 court appearance itself was a formality. It was the first time Rooney appeared before Cohen. The case had originally been assigned to Justice Fernando Camacho in Central Islip, who agreed to recuse himself from the case because he knows Rooney’s mother, New York State Supreme Court Justice Bruna DiBiase, a well-respected criminal case judge who serves in New York City.
Gann agreed to allow the prosecution to take a mouth swab from her to capture her DNA, which was needed to confirm a blood sample that was drawn from the defendant hours after the accident. The attorney said he is working toward a possible plea deal with the district attorney that would include prison time, though not the eight-and-a-third to 25 years the homicide charge can carry upon conviction. Gann said he is looking for “a resolution that is just all the way around. I think it is doable.”
Cano expressed pessimism over the chance for justice to happen in the case. “We are Spanish. She is white,” she said.
Rooney is due back in court on April 3.