An FDNY firefighter was indicted for allegedly driving while intoxicated and ultimately killing a man in a wrong-way crash on the Sunken Meadow Parkway in November 2020, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday.
Joseph Norris, 38, of Babylon, was charged with aggravated vehicular homicide, vehicular manslaughter, manslaughter in the second degree, vehicular manslaughter in the second degree, aggravated driving while intoxicated, two counts of DWI, reckless driving, and reckless endangerment in the second degree, according to prosecutors. Norris has been employed by the FDNY since 2006.
Norris was arraigned on the indictment Wednesday and bail was set at $100,000 cash or $200,000 bond. He is due back in court on April 15.
Anthony La Pinta, who is representing Norris, told News 4 New York that his client is a “hero.”
“Joseph Norris is a hero firefighter who saved lives during the Deutsche Bank tragedy [fire] in 2007 and has the the full support of his family and the New York City Fire Department,” La Pinta said.
Meanwhile, the FDNY said that it has suspended Norris without pay for the maximum time allowed of 28 days.
If convicted of the top count, Norris faces a maximum sentence of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison. Norris hid his face while holding his pregnant wife’s hand as he left court in Riverhead Wednesday, not responding to reporter questions.
The charges stem from an incident that occurred at about 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 20, 2020. According to prosecutors, Norris had been driving a 2008 Chevrolet Colorado southbound in the northbound lane of the Sunken Meadow Parkway near exit SM3A in Smithtown for four miles before eventually striking a 2007 Mazda CX7 SUV. The driver of the Mazda, Anthony Mariano, of Kings Park, was pronounced dead at the scene. The 44-year-old was a high school social studies teacher in Bayside, Queens.
Norris was transported to South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore with serious physical injuries. A blood test following the crash allegedly revealed a blood alcohol content of 0.29, three times the legal limit. Prosecutors said Norris had just left a strip club before the crash, and said empty beer and liquor bottles were found inside his smashed-up pickup truck.
“This was a senseless tragedy caused by someone who was sworn to protect the safety of others,” Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy D. Sini said in a statement. “His blood alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit when he made the decision to get behind the wheel of a car – a decision that proved to have fatal, devastating consequences. There is no excuse for it. My Office will seek to hold him accountable and obtain justice for the victim.”
Family members of Mariano said Wednesday’s court appearance and the upgraded charges were a long time coming.
“This guy should be in jail today for taking this angel away from us,” said Angelos Koskinas, a friend of Mariano’s. The victim’s fiancée said the couple was set to get married this summer.
“We love him and miss him and think about him every day,” said Christie Azzolini. Her mother even expressed sympathy for Norris’ wife and unborn baby, saying “he ruined their life.”