After the sentencing of a man who killed 12-year-old Valley Stream resident Zachary Ranftle while driving with a suspended license, District Attorney Madeline Singas renewed her call on Albany to pass legislation authored by her office stiffening penalties for suspended and revoked drivers who seriously injure or kill others.
“Mr. and Mrs. Flood [Ranftle’s parents] said it better than anyone in court this morning: Driving is a privilege and a responsibility,” DA Singas said. “Austin Soldano flagrantly and repeatedly violated the traffic laws, continued driving while his license was suspended and it led directly to Zachary Ranftle’s death. This should not be a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of six months in jail—there must be felony penalties. Last year the Floods stood with me, Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky, Assemblyman Jack Martins and Assemblyman Dave McDonough to announce a bill to make that change. The legislative session came and went; it is time for Albany to make this change.”
Singas’ call for legislative action came after Soldano, 30, of Seaford, was sentenced to charges in two vehicular crime cases: an August 2014 incident in which he drove while intoxicated as a felony in Long Beach, causing his license to be suspended, and a December 2014 incident in which he, while illegally driving with his suspended license, struck and killed Ranftle in Valley Stream.
For the drunk driving case, Soldano pleaded guilty to operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, reckless driving, failure to stop at an intersection and resisting arrest.
For the case involving the death of Ranftle, Soldano pleaded guilty to second-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and failure to exercise due care.
Soldano was also previously convicted in a third case, a 2013 incident on the Southern State Parkway in which he pleaded guilty to third-degree unlawful fleeing of a police officer in a motor vehicle and reckless driving.
For his actions, Soldano received consecutive sentences of six months in jail for the case involving the death of Ranftle and 12 months in jail for his drunk driving case, plus five years of probation, during which time he’ll be required to install and maintain an ignition interlock device and complete any alcohol treatment or counseling as directed by probation officials. Soldano’s license will be revoked for one year, after which he will need to reapply for a new one, and he will also provide a DNA sample. His license will also be pending a DMV fatality hearing, which is held whenever a person causes a fatal collision.
The legislation, which was authored by Singas’ office and sponsored by Senator Jack Martins and Assemblymembers Todd Kaminsky and David McDonough, would make driving with a suspended or revoked license chargeable as an E felony in incidents involving serious injury. Under the proposed law, suspended and revoked drivers involved in incidents resulting in death would be charged with a D felony.
The maximum sentence for an E felony is up to four years in prison; the maximum sentence for a D felony is up to seven years in prison.
Currently, suspended and revoked drivers involved in incidents resulting in serious injury or death face misdemeanor charges carrying a maximum sentence of six months of local jail time—the same sentence that Soldano received for his unlicensed operation charge.