Rodriguez is charged with driving the wrong way down the eastbound Long Island Expressway service road in Maspeth, Queens early in the morning when he struck a livery cab that Gibbons was riding in, killing him. All too often tragic early morning accidents like this result from the use of alcohol and drugs, and all of the circumstantial evidence, including that fact that Rodriguez's passenger was found in possession of marijuana, would seen to suggest that is the case here.
But we'll never know because if it turns out that it was indeed Peter Rodriguez behind the wheel of the car, he fled the scene before any sort of sobriety test could be administered.
Rodriguez is no stranger to run-ins with the law. He has 19 prior arrests, including ten felony arrests. Since 1992 he has been in and out jail, which means that he shouldn't get off easy if found guilty in the death of George Gibbons.
But by leaving the scene of the accident, Rodriguez may do just that.
Because he couldn't be given a sobriety test after the accident – Rodriguez was on the lam for one month before being arrested - he is only being charged with second-degree manslaughter. For a felon like Rodriguez, that means he could spend anywhere from three to 15 years in prison.
However, if Rodriguez had done the right – no, the legal – thing and stayed at the scene and was found to be impaired by alcohol or drugs, he could have been charged with aggravated vehicular manslaughter, which could send Rodriguez to jail for anywhere between four to 25 years.
If Rodriguez is found guilty and it's true that alcohol played a role in the accident, he did himself a big favor by running, potentially shaving up to ten years off of a possible prison sentence.
That sends the wrong message to the family of George Gibbons, as well as people who kill because they get behind the wheel after having too much to drink. In the end, apparently it is best to run and deal with the consequences later.
If Rodriguez is guilty, the Queens district attorney needs to build a case against him that will see him behind bars for as long as possible. Only then will justice have been served.