Caption: Jose Romero-Flores being handcuffed in county court after being remanded, standing next to his attorney, Carl Irace, who is holding a legal pad.
“You left me on the street to die,” Sofia Pitt, the 27-year-old victim of Jose Romero-Flores, told him in court last month.
Romero-Flores, who was drunk and driving a work van, had struck her on a crowded Main Street in Montauk last Memorial Day weekend and then drove off. Pitt addressed the 33-year-old Romero-Flores, who faces up to three years in prison, in what is known as a victim impact statement March 13 in the courtroom of New York State Justice Anthony Senft.
After Pitt addressed the court, Senft adjourned the matter to April 17, then turned to Romero-Flores, who had been free on $25,000 bond since last August when he was indicted for his May 26 crimes, and warned, “I want to be very clear, on that date you will start to serve your sentence. So, anticipate going into custody on that date, final adjournment.”
On April 17, Senft was true to his word, ordering Romero-Flores to be jailed. Romero-Flores, who was dressed in a suit and tie, was then handcuffed by court officers.
Senft granted a motion from Carl Irace, the East Hampton attorney representing Romero-Flores his bail to be returned.
Romero-Flores pleaded guilty to two felonies on January 15 before Senft, including vehicular assault, and leaving the scene of an accident after causing a serious physical injury, plus a misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated.
Romero-Flores, driving a 2016 Ford van registered to the Todaro Brothers, a Manhattan company that specializes in gourmet food and catering, was headed west on Main Street early May 26 as a crowd of revelers spilled into the street between the Memory Motel and the Point Bar and Grill. Both establishments have exterior video cameras. Videos showed the van veering over the hazard markings in the middle of the road. When Romero-Flores struck Pitt, she flew up into the windshield and then somersaulted through the air.
Montauk emergency medical technicians were immediately on the scene, as were police. Pitt, who appeared to have a broken pelvis, among other injuries, was placed in an ambulance with the plan to drive her to the Hither Hills overlook, where the ambulance would be met by a helicopter, and she would be flown to Stony Brook University Hospital’s trauma center.
However, Montauk Fire Department Chief Vincent Franzone said at the time, Pitt’s condition deteriorated, and the decision was made that it would be unsafe to move her, so the ambulance continued on to Southampton Hospital, from where she was then taken to Stony Brook.
Pitt remained in intensive care for about 10 days and underwent a series of life-saving procedures.
Romero-Flores, who had a female passenger in the van, kept driving west after striking Pitt. Police caught up with him more than a mile away, west of the downtown area. Irace said April 17 that Romero-Flores, uncertain of what to do, had pulled off the road.
“These last 10 months have been the hardest of my life,” Pitt, who was a producer at the CNBC network at the time she was struck, told Romero-Flores March 13. “I’ve had to pick up the pieces and put myself back together, with the help of family and friends, after you left me on the street to die. My life will never be the same.” Pitt returned to work at CNBC last fall.
“I have no indication that you feel any sort of remorse,” she added. “You have never reached out nor did you cooperate with authorities to try to make up for your careless actions.”
Pitt’s father and two friends were identified by prosecutor Jacob DeLauter as being seated in the court before Pitt began to speak March 13. “Your mistake could have left my father daughterless, my sister sisterless, and my nephew without an aunt,” she said “I hope you learned from this experience and never do to someone else what you did to me.”
Irace had previously agreed, when his client entered his guilty plea January 15, that Romero-Flores would go into custody before sentencing. Romero-Flores is Mexican, has two children, and now lives in Brooklyn, and is in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Senft ordered the probation department to run a pre-sentencing investigation into Romero-Flores. When he is eventually sentenced, which could still be months away, Irace said the time he has already spent behind bars would count as time served. He is facing a possible 1¼ to 3 years in jail. The agreement, Irace explained after Romero-Flores was remanded, is that he will serve the time in Suffolk County, and not upstate. One third of his sentence will come off the top for good behavior.
When Romero-Flores is finally sentenced in court, Irace said he will likely have served his time, and will be released, not from the jail, but from the courthouse. This could forestall any deportation action. Under the DACA program, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Rachael Yong Yow, Romero-Flores’ ability to remain in the country is in the hands of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, not ICE.
According to the USCIS web site, it will not renew anyone’s DACA status if they have been convicted of a felony.