The arraignment of Steve Kinalis was moved to a larger courtroom Tuesday morning to accomodate about 60 people--family, friends and other members of the West Islip community--who came out to Riverhead to support the Gaffney family in its pursuit of justice.
Steven Kinalis, the Ronkonkoma man accused of driving on a of prescription drugs and causing the crash that killed 5-year-old John Gaffney, pleaded not guilty to new felony charges, including aggravated vehicular homicide, related to the Dec. 10 crash on Sunrise Highway in Shirley.
Suffolk County Criminal Court Judge James Hudson told Kinalis that he faces up to 25 years in prison on "a very serious charge." Hudson upped bail for Kinalis, who has been in jail since the crash, to $400,000 from $300,000. Kinalis' attorney, Steven Gaitman, said he didn't expect his client would be able to make bail.
Kinalis, wearing a white button down shirt with his black hair gelled and slicked back, did not speak during the short hearing, entering his not guilty plea through his attorney.
Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, who choked up during a press conference Monday while speaking of John Gaffney's death during the family's annual trip out east to buy a Christmas tree, walked into the courtroom a few minutes before Kinalis' arraignment and took a seat in a back row.
"They got into that car, they were using drugs very, very clearly and they just didn't care," Spota said at the press conference Monday in to Kinalis and to a Medford woman also charged with vehicular manslaughter related to a fatal New Year's Eve crash.
An unidentified doctor is under investigation by a special grand jury after the doctor wrote Kinalis five prescriptions in one day, Spota said.
Gaitman Patch last month that Kinalis has "absolutely no criminal background" and has expressed remorse for his actions.
"Obviously he feels a lot of remorse. Look, it's a tragedy no matter who you are and what your involvement in the case is," Gaitman said at the time, before adding: "Tragedy doesn't always equate to criminal behavior. They are not synonymous."
Members of the West Islip community have rallied around the Gaffney family since the crash, from creating a "Justice for John Gaffney" Facebook page to making donations and delivering dinners to the Gaffney home.
Those who attended the arraignment Tuesday did not speak with the media.
They spoke by their presence in the courtroom, for a little boy whose voice was silenced way too soon.