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Maria Lentini pleads guilty, will get one year in jail

Maria Lentini pleads guilty, will get one year in jail

Offender was awaiting second trial on charges of leaving scene of fatal crash
Maria Lentini pleads guilty, will get one year in jail
Maria Lentini sits beside her attorney, James Knox, after being sentenced on June 1, 2017.
Photographer: Erica Miller

HALFMOON -- A Saratoga Springs woman awaiting her second trial on felony charges of leaving the scene of a fatal accident in 2015 pleaded guilty in Saratoga County Court Friday to a misdemeanor, and is expected to be sentenced to one year in the county jail.

Maria Lentini, 33, pleaded guilty on Friday to leaving the scene of a personal injury accident, and will be sentenced by County Court Judge James A. Murphy III in October. Special prosecutor Lee Kindlon confirmed the sentence agreement.

Kindlon, an Albany lawyer who is best-known locally as a criminal defense attorney, was appointed by Murphy to prosecute the case in January after he disqualified District Attorney Karen A. Heggen's office from handling Lentini's second trial, originally scheduled for last winter.

In a Jan. 11 decision, Murphy found "malfeasance" in an assistant district attorney's failure to report that he encountered and talked to a potential witness in the case in a bar in August 2018, even though being in the bar was a violation of the witness' probation in a different case. Soon after, Murphy appointed Kindlon to prosecute.

Lentini was convicted in a County Court jury trial in November 2016 of felony leaving the scene of a fatal accident, and was subsequently sentenced to up to four years in state prison. In July 2018, however, a mid-level state Appellate Division court vacated her conviction and ordered a new trial. The appeals court found that Murphy, who presided over the first trial, should have declared a mistrial because two witnesses -- one a sheriff's deputy -- testified that on the night of the crash, Lentini requested a lawyer be present before she spoke to police. Hearing that testimony could have prejudiced jurors, the court found.

Lentini was driving north on a remote and unlit section of Route 9 in Halfmoon in the early morning hours of Dec. 6, 2015, when she struck and killed Patrick Duff of Halfmoon, who was wearing dark clothing and walking in her lane. Lentini was arrested because the incident was not reported to police for more than an hour, and during part of that time, she allegedly left the scene with her sister. She called several other people before her sister finally called police, according to the charges against her.

Reach Daily Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086[email protected]or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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