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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Ex-attorney gets maximum sentence in fatal hit-run

Ex-attorney gets maximum sentence in fatal hit-run
The Buffalo News by Matt Gryta - April 2, 2009

Disbarred local attorney John P. Duffy today was ordered by State Supreme Court Justice John L. Michalski to spend the next two and a third to seven years in prison for what the judge called his "cowardly actions" in trying to cover up a fatal hit-and-run accident last October. Duffy, 42, pleaded guilty last Oct. 30 to a leaving the scene of a fatal incident charge in the Oct. 18 hit-and-run death of Hilbert College sophomore Meghan Sorbera. He was given the maximum sentence during an emotional courtroom session.

Duffy was handcuffed and taken into custody after addresses by Sorbera's parents and brother and his own wife. He had been free pending sentencing. Duffy's wife, Tracy, began crying as she told the judge her husband is "a good man and an excellent father" to their two sons and daughter. In a somewhat rambling speech, which he partially read from prepared notes, Duffy turned in the courtroom to Sorbera's parents, Peter and Susan Sorbera of Burlington Flats, and told them he knew they "lost the most of all in this." Sorbera, 19, was struck by Duffy's SUV about 1:35 a.m. last Oct. 18 as she was walking back to the Hilbert campus on South Park Avenue with her boyfriend and a girlfriend after all three had worked that night at a haunted house at the Erie County Fairgrounds. Sorbera's parents have filed a civil suit against Duffy. Duffy told the Sorberas he "did not know I hit your daughter" as he drove off. Duffy, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, claimed his subsequent coverup attempts were "not consistent" with his life's work.

He said he prays every day for a chance to overcome the "pain and suffering" he caused and said "the community deserved better from me." But he still asked for "forgiveness and mercy" from the judge, who agreed to the sentence during the plea talks last October. Daniel J. Chiachia, Duffy's lawyer and former law firm associate, told the judge Duffy is "not the monster the media made him out to be." He said that while Duffy had five drinks during a Buffalo Sabres game in Buffalo and afterward at two bars, he was not legally drunk as he drove home to Orchard Park. Chiachia admitted Duffy "acted irrationally and impulsively" in trying to get his SUV repaired outside of Buffalo after the incident. But the attorney said Duffy apparently hit Sorbera, who was wearing dark clothing, when he reached down to pick up something that fell to the floor of his vehicle. Chiachia claimed a woman driving behind Duffy also said she never saw Sorbera be hit.

Prosecutor Lynette M. Reda told the judge Hamburg town police said Duffy initially denied involvement in the accident after they tracked him down several days later. Chiachia told the judge his client's doctors feel prison will accelerate the worsening of his multiple sclerosis. The victim's parents and older brother, Peter, pleaded with the judge for the maximum seven-year prison term. The victim's father, a retired state corrections officer, and her mother said they stood by her hospital bed at Erie County Medical Center as she was declared dead about six hours after the accident and despite frantic hospital efforts to keep her alive. Mrs. Sorbera said she had always considered her daughter her "best friend" and her "twin," saying they frequently "finished each other's sentences." Peter Sorbera Jr., a Central New York high school math teacher, denounced Duffy as "a selfish coward."

WBEN NewsRadio 930 : Buffalo & Niagara Falls, NY - Friday, 24 October 2008 6:52AM
WBEN Extra: Focus on Drunk Driving

With news that a Hamburg area lawyer has been charged in a weekend hit-and-run that killed a 19-year-old college student as she walked home from work, the issue of drunk driving is prompting activists and bars to take a second look at drunk driving in WNY. "I believe it's another tragedy and at this point of course he's innocent until proven guilty, but I need to reiterate that drinking nd driving no matter what the amount of alcohol is.. is driving impaired," says Elizabeth Obad, president of WNY Mothers Against Drunk Driving Chapter.

Meghan Sorbera of Burlington Flats, outside Cooperstown, was hit and killed by a sport utility vehicle about 1:30 a.m. Saturday while walking home after work at a haunted house at the Erie County Fairgrounds Witnesses said the driver slowed but did not stop.  Police said an investigation led to Hamburg lawyer John Duffy, 41, who turned himself in to police Tuesday evening and confessed. He was released without bail Wednesday after arraignment in town court on a felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident. Police said they tracked Duffy down by using video from a restaurant drive-through that recorded his sport utility vehicle and its license plate minutes before the accident. Investigators got search warrants for his SUV, home and office after learning that Duffy had tried to repair damage to the SUV at his home.  "The search of the residence revealed a broken headlight buried deep in a leaf receptacle and glass fragments from the garage floor," a statement from Hamburg police said.

Duffy confessed when confronted with the evidence at the police station, police said.  Both Duffy's attorney, Dan Chiacchia, and police have said Duffy was drinking that night, but neither could say how much.  "That really wasn't why this happened," Chiacchia said. "It was more driver inattention than anything."  Chiacchia said his client did not know he had hit anyone until days after the accident. He said he thought he may have struck a trash can because when he looked behind him he saw papers flying in the air.  Chiacchia said Duffy is "extremely remorseful."  But police believe that Duffy knew, at least by Sunday morning, that his vehicle may have been involved in the fatal accident.  "He was attempting to destroy evidence, tamper with evidence," Lt. Kevin Trask said. "That shows me he was probably trying to get away with this."


member of MADD said...

Another sad example that we teach our attorneys how to get away with MURDER, not to do the right thing. This idiots first response was to cover up a crime. This from one of our honored Officers of the Court. Disgraceful.

Anonymous said...

This atty in an attempt to avoid arrest ,also staged a second accident with his car in the same area, by placing parts of his car there and displaying some evidence of a crash, he then went to PA to fix his vehicle and made claims to have wanted to commit suicide, and finally he only admitted his crime to police after they attempted to locate him at his law office and could not find him, until he was reached by cell phone somewhere out of state, and he came home and was arrested!

This atty was released...ROR... on his own recoznizance...even after he fled the state and the victim died shortly afterwards. The judge where he took the plea also released him.. ROR... for 5 months pending sentencing and the judge admitted he had to overcome his emotions for days before the sentencing!

My problem with this entire scenerio is this atty's continual release without posting bail, after a hit and run death with obstruction of justice and fleeing the state, and the judge's uncontrolled emotions before sentencing a lawyer to prison.

At least six hit and runs have occurred in this Buffalo area in the past 6 months. All defts, but atty Duffy and Buffalo Bills player....Marshawn Lynch have been incarcerated on bail from the time of arrest. Duffy fled the state...absolute reason for bail to be placed..judges in the 8th dist?...and Lynch was protected by the National Football League and lives in California.

The other "ordinary" all local individuals did not flee the state and in one very recent case the 30 yr old female deft, whose 2 victims did not die, had to post $100,000 cash bail...with 2 high profile attys requesting $250,000 property bail being denied, to get her out of jail! She never left the state and her victims did not die, but are seriously injured.

The point I am sure is well taken... is that the rich and famous in NY state get away without having to post bail when arrested. Bernie Madoff is an outrageous example of this privilege, as he was releasesd to secure funds that his own wife could have secured in minutes!

Duffy will probably only do 1 yr, even though the victim's parents requested he do the full 7 yrs, and Lynch was given a plea to a traffic VIOLATION for hitting and injuring a young lady crossing the street in the party district of Buffalo, where days later he had to be found at his home and confronted with the accident.

The emotional judge I hope feels this intensely, when he sentences the unknown to him.. citizens of today, but I am certain his justice will be swift and icy for the same type of non-lawyer criminal felon.

As for the bail system in this state and maybe others, there needs to be mandated guidelines for judges to follow and not deviate... regarding all charges of the criminal code, and these judges must follow them or suffer removal..of course this will happen when Lippman begins his judicial reform!So since this reform WILL NEVER TAKE PLACE...I am informing the public of the constant need to address in writing, their outrage to Lippman and often ...until he can no longer take the heat. Hit him hard!

MADD said...

Another example of Attorney ethics

Anonymous said...

it's not long enough, he should rot in jail for the rest of his life for KILLING someone!!!!!!! the justice system doesn't work!!!!!!

Seyfried said...

Rot in hell?? Really? All of you anyonomous bloggers hiding behind your computers may want to think twice before determining someone's fate that they haven't the slightest inclination who that person is as a human being. Who are you to judge, God? There's a reason it is called an accident and it could/can happen to anyone. Each and every one of you blog as if you are morally and ethically superior. Why don't you take a good long look in the mirror before you go spewing accusations of someone else's actions that you know nothing about. All you know is what the media fed you and you fell for it hook, line and sinker. Why don't you post your name when you are proclaiming this man's fate? What are you afraid of that it may happen to you one day? If it does what would you do? Would you be man enough to plead guilty or would you plead not guilty like Corasanti fight it get away with it and still practice? Who is the real coward here? Not John Duffy each and every one of you hiding behind your computers you are the cowards. Say a little prayer Lord knows you will need it when the time comes for your fate. Those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

Anonymous said...

Please remove the posting dated July 25, 2015. This is not the man I thought it was in fact it's an entirely different man. This is false information. I've attempted unsuccessfully to contact the administrator of this site. Much obliged.

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