A Manhattan attorney who police said struck a bicyclist in Quogue Village while driving drunk last year pleaded guilty last week to all 10 charges filed against him, including two counts of vehicular assault and leaving the scene of an accident, as well as DWI, according to court records.
Tabber B. Benedict, 35, was arrested on July 4, 2011, after he struck and seriously injured East Quogue resident Steve Dorn, 44, with his GMC Acadia on Montauk Highway, and then left the scene, according to Quogue Village Police.
Mr. Benedict, who is due back in Suffolk County Criminal Court for sentencing on January 25, faces a possible prison term of 39 months to 10 years and will lose his law license, according to his attorney, Mark Heller.
“This was a very unusual and isolated event in this individual’s life,” Mr. Heller said, adding that Mr. Benedict has a long history of philanthropy and achievement. “This was a very unfortunate and regrettable event in his life that took place over the Fourth of July, and he has expressed tremendous contriteness and remorse, and he is vigilantly hopeful that this victim will have a good and complete recovery.”
Mr. Heller called the possible punishment “extremely harsh,” given that Mr. Benedict will lose his law license and means of earning a living.
“I am a great advocate of justice being tempered with mercy,” he said. “I don’t know anybody who hasn’t had some indiscretion in their life, and I think that an adequate and appropriate sentence would have been misdemeanor pleas and probation … He’s not someone that requires incarceration.”
Robert Clifford, a spokesman for Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, said that in New York State, an attorney who is convicted of a felony automatically loses his license to practice law.
In a statement, Mr. Spota called Mr. Heller’s comments “absurd.”
“His client, driving at 8 o’clock in the morning with a blood-alcohol level four times the legal limit, ran over a bicyclist and left the victim seriously injured on the side of the road,” he said, adding that the punishment of up to 10 years in prison and losing his law license was appropriate. “In fact, Mr. Benedict would have escaped if not for two witnesses who chased and stopped him two miles away from the crime scene.”
Mr. Benedict pleaded guilty to two counts of vehicular assault in the second degree, vehicular assault while under the influence of alcohol, and two counts of leaving the scene of an accident with a serious injury, all felonies. He was also charged with two counts of DWI and one count of reckless driving, both misdemeanors, and several traffic infractions.
Police said that after Mr. Benedict fled the scene in his vehicle, two drivers who witnessed the accident forced him to pull over less than two miles away and parked their cars around his car so that he could not leave until police arrived.
Mr. Dorn is a teacher in the William Floyd School District and has worked as a lifeguard in Hampton Bays for the past 11 years.