Vincent Zanfardino, 54, a Bronx driver who suffered an epileptic seizure while he was driving on a New England Thruway at 8 p.m. July 11 2012, hitting a car and killing a backseat passenger, claims he is being victimized by a malicious prosecution. Prosecutors agreed to pursue manslaughter charges against Zanfardino after he was previously cleared, arguing that he was fully aware that his track record with epileptic seizures legally prevented him from being behind a wheel.
The car involved in the fatal crash had Brynn Rohlf and her fiancé Dylan Gardineer in the car. Alfred Reitano was in the back seat where he suffered a head injury. He died the next day.
As The New York Daily News reports, Zanfardino, who was cleared of criminal charges in November 2014, claims that he should not have been inside a courtroom in the first place, according to a modified complaint filed in a Manhattan federal court.
New York state law requires people with epileptic history to be free of incident for 12 months before getting behind a wheel.
Zanfardino said his doctor told him he only needed to be free of seizures for six months before being allowed to legally drive. The 54-year-old said the doctor’s wrong advice was evidenced on his medical records. He also alleges that the Bronx assistant district attorney looking into the case was aware of the medical records but refused to acknowledge the doctor’s testimony, leading to another wrongful indictment.
Zandarfino further claimed that during the course of the investigation, prosecutors and police downplayed the discovery of 17 bags of heroin and two liquid-filed hypodermic needles that were found in the other car involved in the fatal crash.
He said police asked for a blood sample from him to determine if he had enough anti-seizure drugs in his system as well as confirm if he had alcohol or drugs.
Zanfardino alleges that the other driver was not asked for a blood sample even after the discovery of heroin in her car. He said the assistance district attorney also did not bother to ask the driver or investigating police officers about the alleged heroin before presenting evidence to a grand jury.
Zanfardino’s lawyer, Vincent Brown, said his client felt “scapegoated.” He added, “the accident was not his fault even though he did have a seizure while driving…it’s not illegal for epileptics to drive in this state or any other one.”
Reitano’s mother said her world was over because of the loss of her son. “Freddy was my firstborn and he was the light of my life. Life will never be the same without him,” she said of Zanfardino, “I do not think he should have been driving if he knew the consequences.”
Zanfardino was previously cleared of charges and not found guilty of second-degree manslaughter, criminal negligent homicide, and counts of assault, according to The New York Times. He was driving with co-worker, Richard Tanguay, when he suddenly became unresponsive and crashed his car at 93 miles per hour into a vehicle driven by Brynn Rohlf.
During his trial, prosecutors had accused Zanfardino, a systems specialist with Consolidated Edison, that he repeatedly ignored warnings from his doctor not to drive and refused to acknowledge that he suffered from epilepsy when he renewed his license 11 months before the fatal crash in 2012. If he had been convicted, he would have faced a maximum of 15 years in prison.
Zanfardino’s case has attracted national attention, posing questions about when and under what particular circumstances epileptic people can be allowed to drive. Over 2 million people in the United States suffer from this neurological condition.
[Image via Shutterstock/Aleksandar Mijatovic]