By Rich Bockmann and Steve Mosco
Grief caused by the loss of a loved one never goes away no matter what sentence the culprit receives, according to the family of a Maspeth bar owner.
Peter Rodriguez, the man accused of killing beloved Maspeth bar owner George Gibbons Jr. in a hit-and-run in October, pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide and leaving the scene of an accident Friday, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.
Justice Chin Brandt indicated she would sentence Rodriguez, 37, to 3 1/2 to seven years in prison May 7, according to Brown.
Gibbons’ brother Brendan said he does not believe three to seven years is enough time for Rodriguez to serve after his negligent actions led directly to his brother’s death, but he has come to terms with the district attorney’s decision.
“From what I understand, the district attorney’s office, which has been excellent through this entire ordeal, said that this is the maximum amount of time allowed under the law due to the fact that it can’t be proven that [Rodriguez] was intoxicated because he fled the scene,” Brendan Gibbons said. “I’m just glad he’s not on the streets anymore and he can’t harm another family in the future like he did mine.”
Gibbons Jr. was riding home in the back of a livery cab in the early morning of Oct. 15 when Rodriguez, driving the wrong way on the Long Island Expressway service road, struck Gibbons’ Town Car, throwing him forward into the dashboard, the DA said.
Rodriguez fled the scene and Gibbons was taken to Elmhurst Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival, the DA said.
Brown’s office said Rodriguez was speeding. The driver of the livery car was hospitalized with severe head, neck and back injuries, while Rodriguez’s passenger, who Brown said initially fled, returned to the site of the wreck and was also hospitalized for head injuries.
Rodriguez was arrested Nov. 15 in Connecticut by the Regional Fugitive Task Force, according to the NYPD.
Brown said the sentence was the maximum allowed under the law.
“Hopefully, this guilty plea will serve as a measure of justice for a senseless death,” said Brown. “No amount of words can undo the damage or pain that this defendant has caused.”
Brendan Gibbons said the family plans to continue to follow Rodriguez and be there whenever he comes up for parole. When that time comes, Gibbons said his family will be there to speak out for George.
“For myself and my family, no matter what time he does in prison, it’s never going to bring back my brother. Whether he does 15 years or 30 years, we’re never going to get George back,” he said. “We miss him every day, but as long as we fight for him, he’ll never really be lost.”
In keeping his memory alive, the family has since reopened Gibbons’s Home and the bar is now being run by George’s five siblings.
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.