Daniel Conklin admitted in court Tuesday he knew police were chasing him when he recklessly sped along Route 5 before slamming into the vehicle of a Frankfort woman, killing her.
But the reason why Conklin decided to flee in the first place, and why he chose not to stop, were questions nobody asked as Conklin pleaded guilty in Herkimer County Court to second-degree manslaughter, second-degree assault and first-degree unlawfully fleeing police.
Conklin, 24, of Rochester, faces between five to eight years in prison when he is sentenced by Judge John Crandall on Thursday, May 2, for the crash that killed Gail Pietruska, 65.
If Conklin had gone to trial in March as expected, prosecutors said the proceedings would surely have been emotionally and mentally unpleasant for Pietruska’s sister, Louise Medallis, 54, who survived the crash with serious injuries in the town of Schuyler on May 24, 2012.
Sparing Medallis that anguish is part of the reason prosecutors agreed to a punishment less than the 15 years Conklin could have faced if convicted of manslaughter after trial.
“She lost her best friend on that date, not only her sister,” Herkimer County District Attorney Jeffrey Carpenter said of Medallis. “One of the concerns I had was the welfare of the surviving sister going forward.”
After the proceeding, Conklin’s defense attorney, Norman Mastromoro, said Conklin’s regret for the deadly crash also prompted him to accept responsibility.
“The defendant is clearly remorseful, and he’s expressed that to me several times,” Mastromoro said. “He did not choose to drag anything out for the sister, or the system.”
The high-speed chase began in the village of Herkimer when Conklin failed to stop for police after speeding through a school zone. While Carpenter previously said Herkimer police “acted responsibly” when pursuing Conklin’s vehicle, Conklin’s attorney still questions how the pursuit was handled.
In court, Conklin said he did not see any emergency lights flashing on the police vehicle behind him, although Carpenter disputes this recollection. Also, Pietruska’s vehicle pulled out in front of Conklin’s vehicle while he still had the right of way.
“There are clear statutory criteria as to the conduct of emergency vehicles in pursuit, and there were questions I felt could have been legitimately raised when you get into the question of causation,” Mastromoro said. “There has to be a reason why the statutes define what the conduct should be in pursuits by emergency vehicles.”