Several tow truck operators protested Thursday, Feb. 9, after news that the Onondaga County DA’s Office refused to press charges against Richard Congel, a 76-year-old man that killed one of their colleagues. Congel appealed to the DA for mercy since he is suffering effects from a brain tumor.
Family cries for justice after Congel set free
Nearly a year ago, on Feb. 24, Irael Martinez was loading a car onto his tow truck when he was struck by an SUV driven by Congel. He was initially arrested and charged with driving while ability impaired, vehicular assault, and second-degree assault.
Officers made statements that when they asked for Congel’s ID, he showed no sign of emotion and finally passed them his credit card in place of his driver’s license. Tests showed he was taking an amphetamine, an opiate, benzodiazepine, and marijuana, according to a document obtained by Syracuse.com.
The brain tumor Congel had was removed by a hospital in Washington, D.C. Dr. Robert Knapp examined him in November and testified during the DMV hearing and said it appeared he had a seizure before the incident.
Those charges are now dropped and replaced by a failure to move over violation. The DA made the change after saying it can’t be proven that the four drugs had impaired his driving. Other than the marijuana in his system, all the other drugs were prescribed.
According to reports on Syracuse.com, Dr. Knapp said that the drugs in Congel’s system would not have affected his judgment or ability to drive. A toxicologist, Dr. Oliver Brown, also said the drug levels were therapeutic.
Syracuse area towing companies were brought to tears over the news
13 tow trucks lined Onondaga Lake Parkway Thursday night to protest against Onondaga County DA’s refusal to press charges. Martinez was a Cuban immigrant who started Martinez Towing back in 2014.
The drivers followed proper procedures, setting up road flares to guide traffic around the location they had set up near the cross that stands in a memorial to the incident. Local law enforcement provided additional protection for the time the drivers were gathered.
John Cherundolo, a lawyer for Martinez’s estate as well as his widow, Yudiset Ferreiro Hernandez has brought a wrongful death lawsuit against Congel in Onondaga County Court. Cherundolo told Syracuse.com that Congel is “trying to create a one-in-a-million type of event to explain what happened” in an attempt to evade responsibility.
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