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What you need to know for 09/22/2017

Woman in hit-and-run case found guilty of failing to report incident

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Woman in hit-and-run case found guilty of failing to report incident

A Saratoga Springs woman who struck and killed a man last year is guilty of failing to report the in
Woman in hit-and-run case found guilty of failing to report incident
Maria L. Lentini

A Saratoga Springs woman who struck and killed a man last year is guilty of failing to report the incident to police, a Saratoga County Court jury found Tuesday.

The jury deliberated for just over a day before finding Maria Lentini guilty of one felony count of leaving the scene of a fatal accident without reporting it. The crash killed Patrick T. Duff, 30, of Halfmoon.

Prosecutors offered evidence of 17 separate phone calls Lentini made in the wake of the Dec. 6, 2015, incident - calls placed over the course of more than an hour.

None of those calls were to police, Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen said.

Lentini now faces a maximum possible sentence of 2 1/3 to 7 years in state prison when she is sentenced in January. Heggen said her office intends to ask for the maximum sentence.

Lentini, 31, of Circular Street, Saratoga Springs, was driving north on an unlit, remote stretch of Route 9 in Halfmoon at about 2:30 a.m. on Dec. 6 when her car struck and killed Duff.

A Stewart’s Shop nearby was closed, but a store security camera filmed what happened. It showed that Lentini immediately stopped her car.

The heart of the prosecutors’ case was that police weren’t notified until 3:44 a.m., when Lentini’s sister arrived on the scene and placed a 911 call.

In between, prosecutors said, Lentini made 17 phone calls and, at some point, left the crash scene. Lentini called her sister, friends and her boyfriend, among others, prosecutors said.

Assistant District Attorney Katherine DeMartino led the prosecution, assisted by Patrick Campion.

Defense attorney James C. Knox, in his opening statements last week, urged the jury to consider the shock Lentini experienced.

Duff was highly intoxicated and was walking in the road while wearing dark clothing, Knox said. Duff’s body came through Lentini’s windshield, inches from her face.

Knox couldn’t be reached for comment after the verdict.

Sentencing is set for Jan. 31 and Duff’s family is expected to offer a statement during those proceedings, their attorney Dan Dagostino said later Tuesday.

Dagostino said the family is relieved the trial is over and that a message was sent to other motorists.

“They’re relieved that this chapter is closed, and more importantly that the jury sent such a powerful message, not only to the defendant, but the community at large, that when stuff like this happens, we have a moral obligation to help,” Dagostino said.

The trial and verdict focused only on allegations that Lentini left the scene without reporting the crash. She initially faced a felony reckless endangerment count, but Judge James A. Murphy III dismissed that charge in September.

Reach Gazette reporter Steven Cook at 395-3122, scook@dailygazette.net or @ByStevenCook on Twitter.

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