The driver in the that killed West Islip 5-year-old John Gaffney over the weekend admitted to taking a mixture of prescription drugs before getting behind the wheel, prosecutors said in court Wednesday morning.
Steven Kinalis, 30, told officials that he had taken oxycodone (a painkiller), Xanax (an anti-anxiety medication), Soma (a muscle relaxer) and Adderall (a stimulant used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) before the crash, Assistant District Attorney Tisha Burrows said at First District Court in Central Islip.
Burrows did not indicate how long before the crash Kinalis took the pills or how many of each he had consumed.
Police found two prescription bottles of oxycodone, "with a significant number of the pills missing," inside Kinalis' Toyota Scion at the crash scene on Sunrise Highway in Shirley. The other medications were found inside Kinalis' Ronkonkoma residence, Burrows said.
On Saturday morning, prosecutors said Kinalis was travelling at a "high rate of speed, weaving in and out of traffic" when his vehicle rear-ended a pickup truck driven by Kevin Gaffney, of West Islip. The crash sent the truck off the road into a tree. John Gaffney, a kindergartner at died a day later at Stony Brook University Medical Center.
Kevin Gaffney, his wife, Teri, his 7-year-old daughter Emma and 2-year-old son Ryan were also in the truck and treated for non-life-threatening injuries. The Gaffney family was headed out east Saturday morning to buy a Christmas tree when the crash occurred, according to a CBS New York report.
Gaffney family members sat in the front row of courtroom D-46 Wednesday clutching each other tight as Kinalis, wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt and jeans, appeared before the judge.
Judge Toni Bean increased Kinalis' bail to $300,000 cash, but as it stands, Kinalis, who listed his job on his Facebook profile (which has now been deleted) as a senior loan consultant at Sterling National Bank in Great Neck, is only charged with a misdemeanor of driving while ability impaired by drugs.
State guidelines call for no more than a year in prison if convicted of that charge. Prosecutors, however, asked the court for a month-long adjournment Wednesday to consider a "significant felony upgrade" to the charges.
Outside the courtroom, prosecutors refused to comment on what those upgraded charges might be.
Kinalis did not speak in court and showed no emotion. Kinalis' attorney, Steven Gaitman, said little during the hearing, besides stating that his client would not be able to make bail. He also said he has yet to see any toxicology or bloodwork reports related to the crash.
In a phone call with Patch Wednesday afternoon, Gaitman said all of the medications were prescribed to Kinalis, although he refused to elaborate on what health issues Kinalis has that would require such drugs.
Gaitman also disputed the prosecutors' claim that Kinalis admitted to taking the four different drugs before driving, saying as far as he knew, Kanalis had only told police that he'd taken Adderall before the crash.
Gaitman said 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," said Gaitman, before adding: "Tragedy doesn't always equate to criminal behavior. They are not synonymous."
Members of the Gaffney family said they weren't ready to talk about the case against Kinalis, who is due back in court on Jan. 30.
There will be visiting hours at Fredrick J. Chapey & Sons West Islip Funeral Home from 2-4:30 p.m. and 7-9:30 p.m. Wednesday for John Gaffney. A funeral Mass will be held at Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church at 10 a.m. Thursday, which will be followed by burial at St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale.
In lieu of flowers, donations to the Mark R. Harris Foundation, 144 Hampton Blvd. Massapequa, NY 11758, would be appreciated.