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Suspect in death of Qns bar owner to get 3 1/2 years

TimesLedger Newspapers

The wrong-way driver allegedly responsible for the death of a beloved Maspeth bar owner is expected to get 3 1/2 years in prison after pleading guilty in a deal worked out with prosecutors, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.

Peter Rodriguez, 36, will officially agree to the plea deal April 20 with sentencing expected May 4, said the source, who asked not to be identified. It has been almost six months since George Gibbons Jr. died after he was hit head-on by Rodriguez, who was driving the wrong way on the Long Island Expressway near 58th Road, after Gibbons had closed his bar, Gibbons’ Home, at 54-12 69th St.

Police said Rodriguez fled the scene after the crash, possibly to avoid having to take field sobriety tests. The Brooklyn man was arrested in Connecticut after a month in hiding with the help of an NYPD Crimestoppers hotline tip and was arraigned in November on charges of manslaughter, assault, leaving the scene of an accident without reporting and criminally negligent homicide.

Gibbons’ brother, Brendan, said he will believe the plea deal is a reality when he hears it from the Queens district attorney. In the meantime, the heartbroken sibling said that no matter how much time Rodriguez gets behind bars, he will continue to miss his brother.

“All I can say is that I will never have my brother back. It doesn’t matter if he [Rodriguez] gets four years, seven years or 14 years,” said Brendan Gibbons. “We just want to thank the entire community who has come out and given us their support. They have been fantastic.”

Gibbons said the family expects to release a statement after the court date April 20. The district attorney’s office said it would not comment because this is a pending case.

City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), who was at the courthouse during the initial hearing to show her support for the family and to urge the judge to impose the maximum sentence, said the community is safer with Rodriguez behind bars.

But she will continue to push for the highest punishment.

“Our community came together to fight for justice for George and now that Peter Rodriguez is behind bars, we can finally say that our streets are safer,” she said. “As hearings proceed, we will continue to fight to see that Rodriguez receives the maximum sentence for this heinous crime which took the life of such an admired and respected member of our neighborhood.”

Gibbons’ Home has since reopened with the help of George’s five siblings.

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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