The trial of the man that killed George Gibbons may have concluded, but friends and family are ensuring that Gibbons’ legacy will live on.
More than 100 supporters, all donning green in solidarity, gathered on the steps of Queens Criminal Court on Monday, May 7 following the sentencing of Peter Rodriguez, who last month pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a crime and negligent homicide in Gibbons’ death.
“There is not substantial amount of time Peter Rodriguez can serve that will make it any easier for our family to deal with the loss of our dear George,” said his sister Bernadette of Rodriguez’s sentence of three-and-a-half to seven years in prison, the maximum allowed under the law. The family, along with Councilmember Elizabeth
Crowley, hope Gibbons’ death will be the impetus to lengthen penalties in similar crimes.
“The law needs to be strengthened to penalize those who break it, but right now our system fails to adequately hold criminally negligent-drivers accountable for their actions,” Crowley said. “I will continue to work with the Gibbons family and the Maspeth community to call on the State Assembly to pass and Governor [Andrew] Cuomo to sign this important bill.”
The bill, which has passed the Senate, would elevate leaving the scene of a crime in which a death occurred from a class D felony to a class C felony, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
“We hope that in carrying on George’s tradition of helping others and being an active community member –along with Councilmember Crowley and her office — that in the future if an accident like this were to occur again that we would be able to change the law and make George’s legacy continue on in the future,” Bernadette said. “Maybe with a harsher sentence families will have a little bit more of a content feeling after leaving the courtroom in a situation such as this.”
Gibbons, owner of Gibbons’ Home in Maspeth, was killed on the morning of October 15, 2011 when the cab he was traveling home in was struck by Rodriguez’s vehicle — traveling the wrong way on the Long Island Expressway’s service road.
“I’m not happy about it,” George Gibbons Sr. said of the abbreviated sentence, “but that’s the law and until we can get it changed we’ll have to do with it and come back when [Rodriguez] is up for parole.”