Anthony Gallo was impaired by drugs when the pickup truck he was driving struck and killed 19-year-old college student Cassandra Boone, after which he fled, a jury found Thursday.
The verdict means Gallo could be sentenced to as much as 12 1⁄2 to 25 years in prison, and possibly more.
The Schenectady County Court jury came back with its decision after just more than two hours of deliberations; the trial lasted less than two weeks. At issue was whether Gallo was impaired by drugs; he had previously admitted to driving the truck, striking Boone and fleeing.
Prosecutor Brian Gray said he hoped the verdict helps the Boone family in some way.
“I’m hoping this helps them in their mourning process,” he said.
Gray also gave credit to all who worked on the case for helping to bring in the guilty verdicts.
“This took a lot of hard work from a lot of people in our office,” Gray said.
Friends of the Boone family sat in throughout the trial, Gray said, keeping the family updated.
Gallo, 35, of Rotterdam, was convicted of multiple counts, including the top count of aggravated vehicular homicide. The jury found that Gallo fatally struck Boone Nov. 16, 2011, as she was walking home from classes. The Schenectady County Community College student was attempting to cross Erie Boulevard at State Street when she was hit.
Witnesses testified Gallo ran a red light, driving around stopped cars to do so. He then sped through the intersection, hitting Boone, and then drove off without even tapping his brakes.
Boone has been described as a woman with a kind heart, someone who devoted her time to classes at SCCC and volunteered at a local nursery school. She also had dreams of owning her own day care center.
“This was such a tragedy,” Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney said after the verdict. “This young, 19-year-old girl was walking home to her mother’s after spending the evening at the college. This verdict proves that her death was so avoidable.”
The verdict, Carney said, shows that it was Gallo’s bad decisions, every step of the way, that led to Boone’s death. Gallo drove on a suspended license and chose to buy and use drugs and drive recklessly, Carney said.
“All those factors together caused her death,” Carney said. “This was such a tragedy that we as a community should mourn her loss, and we do.”
Attorney Michael Mansion represented Gallo. Mansion could only guess that the jury believed the father and son who testified Gallo was smoking crack cocaine just before leaving their house and hitting Boone. Mansion had questioned their credibility.
“I was surprised they came back so quickly,” Mansion said of the jury. “I thought we put on a pretty solid defense and that they had a lot to work with here.”
In convicting Gallo so quickly, the jury also apparently dismissed any negative inference from the accidental destruction of the truck. Police seized the truck, processed it, took more than 160 pictures and checked its braking and other systems.
But then the truck was inadvertently released and crushed.
For that, the defense only won a special instruction to the jury. Prosecutors argued the missing truck didn’t matter, Gallo had already admitted to everything.
Helping prove Gallo was under the influence of drugs, prosecutors said, was that father and son, David Van Buren Sr. and David Van Buren Jr. Both testified Gallo was with them at a Bellevue home and the three smoked crack cocaine just before Gallo left that evening.
Prosecutors credited investigators Chuck DeLuca and Jack Sims with finding the two. Police got a tip the day after Boone was killed that the suspected truck was at Yates Village. There, police also found Gallo. Once detectives began speaking with Gallo, they quickly got through his cover story and Gallo admitted he was the driver. He also gave police and prosecutors more than enough to work with.
It was Gallo who first directed investigators to the younger Van Buren in his police interview. The investigators then tracked them down and brought them in to testify.
“Without their testimony, we wouldn’t have had that element,” Carney said. “They deserve a lot of the credit for convincing them to talk.”
Gray had also argued that Gallo’s own actions, driving around traffic, speeding through the red light and not even slowing down after he hit Boone, showed he was driving under the influence.
Gallo is to be sentenced June 6. In addition to 12 1⁄2 to 25 years on the aggravated vehicular manslaughter conviction, Carney said there is also a possibility he could get time added on for leaving the scene of a fatal accident, possibly adding another 2 1⁄3 to 7 years.
Acting Schenectady County Court Judge Richard Giardino will sentence Gallo.