Eammon Gibbons showed a small green marble notebook to Judge Dorothy Chin Brandt on Monday in her courtroom at the Queens County Courthouse.
“I bought this in March 2011 to write my best man speech for my brother [Brendan],” he told Brandt.
“Last October I used it to write my brother George’s eulogy.”
George Gibbons was a big brother, confidant, genial host and raconteur — and the guy who could always be counted on to show up at a niece’s or nephew’s birthday party disguised as Batman.
The man who killed him, Peter Rodriguez, did not look up once while Gibbons’ five younger brothers and sisters broke down in court as they described their brother to Brandt, and spoke of how they and their father continue to cope with his death in a car crash last October.
“You didn’t just kill George,” Maureen Gibbons said to Rodriguez. “You killed a piece of each one of us.”
Brandt sentenced Rodriguez to 3 1/2 to 7 years in prison. He pleaded guilty last month to criminally negligent homicide and leaving the scene of a fatal accident.
Gibbons, of Maspeth, owned The Gibbons Home, a popular tavern in the neighborhood where he grew up.
He and Rodriguez, of Brooklyn, were both 37 when their paths crossed on the service road to the Long Island Expressway in the early-morning hours of Oct. 15.
Gibbons was heading home from the bar. Rodriguez was speeding and driving the wrong way on the service road near where he struck head-on the livery cab in which Gibbons was riding.
“October 15 is my birthday,” Brendan Gibbons told the court. “But I remember getting a call from a police officer, telling me that George had been in an accident, and that it was bad. He didn’t say anything other than I should get to the hospital.”
Rodriguez fled the scene and was arrested in Connecticut after one month on the run.
The driver of the livery cab sustained serious injuries. Rodriguez’s passenger also was hurt.
Gibbons’ sister, Siobahn McEntee, spoke of the time her big brother arrived at their house dressed as Santa at 7 a.m. on Christmas morning.
“Just so he could see the looks on the children’s faces when they opened their presents,” she said.
Brendan Gibbons, a new father, said he does not grieve for his own loss alone.
“My child, my future children will never know their Uncle Georgie,” he said on the verge of tears
Gibbons’ father, George Gibbons Sr., also was in court, as were about 100 friends and supporters of the family, all wearing shirts, sweaters, dresses or jackets in various shades of green.
Outside the courtroom after sentencing, City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) said the city should push the State Assembly to make leaving the scene of a fatal accident a class C felony, rather than the D classification it now has.
The measure passed in the Republican-controlled state Senate last year, but has not been approved by the Democratic-controlled Assembly.
“If it had passed the Assembly last year, and the governor had an opportunity to sign it, Peter Rodriguez would have been facing a longer sentence today,” she said.
Family members and supporters vowed to attend every parole hearing for which Rodriguez is eligible to oppose his release in an attempt to make sure he serves as close to the seven-year maximum as possible.
The only time Rodriguez looked up was to make a brief statement of his own. He took care to deny that he had been drinking the night of the crash, a thought that has been harbored by many.
“I am sorry,” he said. “I don’t know whyÇ it just happened. I ran because I was scared, not because I had been drinking ... I hope one day they will believe it was just an accident.”
Rodriguez’s plea came just after Bernadette Gibbons offered him some advice from her late mother.
“She would say ‘Act your age and not your shoe size,’” Gibbons told Rodriguez. “Man up and deal with the consequences of your actions.
“Take this advice with you and run with it,” she said.
“We know you’re good at running.”