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Queens Chronicle

Driver in Gibbons death pleads guilty

Rodriguez faces 3 1/2 to 7 years in crash that killed Maspeth tavern owner

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Posted: Thursday, April 26, 2012 12:00 pm | Updated: 10:33 am, Thu May 3, 2012.

The Brooklyn man accused of killing a popular Maspeth businessman in a hit-and-run accident last October faces up to seven years in prison after pleading guilty on Friday to criminally negligent homicide.

Peter Rodriguez, 37, also pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a fatal hit-and-run in the Oct. 15 accident that killed George Gibbons, the 37-year-old owner of The Gibbons Home, a Maspeth tavern.

Gibbons, who also worked as a DJ, was riding along the service road to the Long Island Expressway at about 6:50 a.m. when the livery car he was in was hit head-on by a 2002 Chrysler Sebring being driven the wrong way on the one-way street by Rodriguez.

More than 70 people came to the courthouse on Friday, wearing green to show support. In a statement issued by the family, George Gibbons’ sister Bernadette said it was a hollow victory.

“Although we are pleased that Rodriguez finally admitted to what he did, we will never be satisfied with the amount of time that he is realistically going to serve in jail,” she said. “It is unfortunate that career criminals like himself get away with multiple slaps on the wrist ... As I have said before, teenagers are in high school longer than Rodriguez will probably be in state prison. And that is a shame.”

The office of Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said Rodriguez was speeding. Gibbons, who was sitting in the rear seat, was thrown into the front seat by the impact of the crash and subsequently was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

The driver of the livery car was hospitalized with severe head, neck and back injuries.

Rodriguez’s passenger, who Brown said initially fled the scene, returned to the site of the wreck and also was hospitalized for head injuries.

A reward for Rodriguez’s arrest and conviction was offered during a one-month manhunt prompted by his fleeing the city. He was captured in Connecticut on Nov. 15 by members of the U.S. Marshal’s Regional Fugitive Task Force following a tip to the NYPD’s Crimestoppers hotline.

“A local business owner tragically lost his life in a hit-and-run crash that also injured two other individuals,” Brown said in a statement issued by his office. “No amount of words can undo the damage or pain that this defendant has caused.”

Rodriguez pleaded guilty before Acting Supreme Court Justice Dorothy Chin-Brandt. She could give Rodriguez 3 1/2 to seven years when he is sentenced on May 7.

Bernadette Gibbons said her family and supporters intend to be present and offer statements prior to sentencing.

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