Prosecutors: Driver in Fatal Crash Took Cocktail of Prescription Drugs

Steven Kinalis admitted to taking drugs before crash that killed 5-year-old, say prosecutors, who are considering a "significant felony upgrade" to current misdemeanor charge.

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. 


jen hoffman December 17, 2011 at 10:28 PM
I agree with Matthew. May he rot in jail.
Wendy Regan December 18, 2011 at 12:49 AM
Dear Readers of Patch: Please take a momemt and log onto Change.org and sign the petition to upgrade the charges against Kinalis to include a felony. Wendy Regan
Jessica Horvath December 18, 2011 at 01:21 AM
@ Open to reason, YES he is innocent until proven guilty and YES he is entitled to a fair trial just as all of us are entitled to a fair trial, however, the facts unequivocally indicate that this man operated a vehicle while under the influence of a myriad of prescription drugs, and as a result a 5 year old boy lost his life, a community is in mourning, and his family is devastated. I find your comment insensitive, cruel and in bad taste. You completely disgust me, hiding behind your fake name making ridiculous accusations and calling people who are mourning the death of a kindergartener idiots. There is reason to be in an uproar based on the facts presented. Whether they left anything out or not as you claim means nothing. There is no reason to give the guy a pass. There are no facts that can change the fact that a boy is dead. There are no facts that can excuse his actions. NONE. I can understand having a modicum of sympathy or compassion for the guy, in that it could have been any one of us. One stupid decision can change the course of so many's lives. We've all done things we know we shouldn't have. However, that doesn't change the fact that the man committed a crime and now needs to pay for it.
Irene December 18, 2011 at 12:58 PM
This man is a self destructive human being. He did not intend to kill this innocent child, I don't agree with that. He intended on reckless abandonment and indifference and he climbed behind the wheel of his car with a cocktail of drugs that obviously shouldn't be used together. He's a man, with knowledge before hand, that this is a mixture for dissaster. May he go away for a long time and wake up to his problems of addiction and selfishness. He needs time away from society, he needs incarceration and intervention so that he doesn't get off and do this again. The laws must be overseen with a second opinion judge. Look what happened in the case of the father/police officer from Babylon (may he rest in peace) the judge let that piece of human waste walk and he was convicted, I believe it was said, on attempted murder charges prior to this recent murder of a police officer/father of four, but the judge allowed him to walk. We need to throw the book at these human life destroyers. The judges (like that female loonie tune in the case above) need to have their law license revoked ASAP! I just hope that the Gaffney's are doing OK at this point, next week is going to be hard, I wish them the Lord's peace!
Kim April 16, 2012 at 05:00 PM
Really????????????? Come on !!!!!! He knew he shouldnt have been driving , no less at the speed he was and INNOCENT are you kidding me ! There is NO innocent in this case. He is 1000000% guilty and unfortunetly because of him , that entire family will live withpain the rest of their lives !!!!! so grow up and have a little respect for the family that lost a child!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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