DA drops BWI charges in Little Neck Bay boat crash

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The lawyer for a Long Island man killed in a July 11 boat collision on Little Neck Bay said he plans to file a wrongful death suit against the Douglas Manor teen who was operating the other craft even though the Queens district attorney dropped drunken boating charges against the youth for lack of evidence.

John Kondogianis, 36, of Elmont, was one of two people killed after his 1990 Bayliner collided with Robert Arnold’s 1996 Sea Ray two weeks ago. Kondogianis was boating with his wife at the time, while Arnold, 18, was out on Little Neck Bay with five other teens.

In addition to Kondogianis, George Lawrence, 17, of Little Neck, died in the accident and two others, including Kondogianis’ wife, Marisa Rodgers, 29, were seriously injured. In the weeks since the crash, sources said police had found crack cocaine on Kondogianis’ boat, but it was unclear whether or not the man had used the drug.

A law enforcement source who asked not to be identified said authorities were investigating whether the crash was accidental or a criminal act.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown’s office dropped charges against Arnold of boating while intoxicated Friday after blood tests revealed the teen’s system was drug free at the time of the accident. Last week sources said Arnold’s blood alcohol level the night of the crash was .01, well below the limit of .06 needed to prove impairment on the water.

Arnold was arraigned July 12 and freed on $2,500 bail. A graduate of St. Mary’s High School who was expected to attend SUNY-New Paltz in the fall, he could face charges of criminally negligent homicide.

Jack Glasser, the lawyer for the Kondogianis’ estate, lashed out at Arnold and Brown Saturday after a funeral service was held for Kondogianis in Flushing. Lawrence was buried Friday after a funeral mass in Douglaston.

“His release is a joke,” Glasser said of Arnold. “We’re outraged about it.”

Glasser called Arnold “the aggressor” in the crash and said Kondogianis’ family “wants Mr. Arnold to pay for his crime — whether it is civilly or criminally.”

The lawyer said he would file a wrongful death suit on behalf of Kondogianis’ estate in State Supreme Court and was waiting both for a personal representative to be appointed for Kondogianis’ estate as well as permission from Marisa Rodgers, Kondogianis’ wife. Rodgers has been in critical condition at North Shore University Hospital since the accident.

Arnold’s lawyer, Steven Barnwell, did not return calls for comment as of press time Tuesday. But Barnwell has repeatedly maintained his client’s innocence and said Arnold regrets the crash. Friends of Arnold have staunchly defended him since the accident, saying he is a safe and responsible boater who would not endanger his friends.

Law enforcement sources said Kondogianis had two previous arrests in Queens for drug possession, including one in 1999 and one in 2000 in which he was sentenced to three years probation.

A spokesman for the DA’s office said the investigation into the July 11 incident was continuing.

“It’s going to take several weeks to conduct a thorough investigation of all the facts,” spokesman Patrick Clark said.

A source close to the investigation said Tuesday the results of drug tests on Kondogianis and his wife, who have a 4-year-old son, were “pending.”

The main question in the investigation centers on whether “the collision was a crime or was it an accident,” the source said.

Rodgers has been in critical condition at North Shore University Hospital since the accident and has been sedated to speed her recovery. Glasser said Saturday Rodgers was unaware her husband was killed in the accident.

If and when Rodgers regains consciousness, the source said, “she’s going to be an important person to speak to.”

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:10 pm, October 10, 2011
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