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Convicted DWI Murderer Takes Case to Appeals Court

Martin Heidgen will argue he didn't know right from wrong after getting into his pickup and driving while drunk.

Martin Heidgen. (Credit: NCPD)
Martin Heidgen. (Credit: NCPD)

A man convicted of murder after driving drunk and killing a Lido Beach girl is making a second attempt to have his conviction overturned.

Martin Heidgen, who is one of the only people nationwide to be convicted of depraved indifference to murder after a drunk driving crash, will plead his case to the Court of Appeal, New York State’s highest court, at 2 p.m. Tuesday. He is prepared to challenge whether a person can be so drunk that they are unable to form a state of mind to act depraved. Prosecutors in the case argue that someone who is drunk can act depraved and that Heidgen knew what he was doing the night of the crash, according to News 12.

The arguments in the case will be livestreamed today at 2 p.m. at http://www.nycourts.gov/ctapps/, according to the Nassau County District Attorneys Office. 

In October 2006, after a five-week trial, Heidgen was convicted of second-degree murder after he drove drunk in a pickup truck traveling in the wrong direction on the Meadowbrook Parkway on July 2, 2005. His vehicle slammed into a limousine that was carrying 7-year-old Katie Flynn, her family and driver Stanley Rabinowitz, 59, of Farmingdale, who were heading home from a wedding in which Katie was the flower girl. Katie and Rabinowitz were killed in the crash.

Police said Heidgen's blood-alcohol content registered .28 percent, well above the legal limit of .08 percent. He is serving a prison sentence of 18 years to life for the crime.

In September 2011, the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division ruled to uphold Heidgen’s conviction after his defense attorney tried to argue that his client should have been tried on on the lesser charge of manslaughter, not murder, and that police mishandled blood evidence that measured his level of intoxication.

In January 2012, an attorney for the Flynn family reached a $1.3 million settlement in a lawsuit against Heidgen and the Mineola-based limousine company, U.S. Limousine Service, in which the girl and her family were riding in. Katie’s parents, Neil and Jennifer Flynn, and her grandparents, Christopher and Denise Tangney of Long Beach — who were all in the limousine at the time of the crash — sued Heidgen and the Mineola-based limousine company for damages.

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jetsboog October 08, 2013 at 03:01 PM
brendan please remove your post it is a bit out of line
Brendan October 08, 2013 at 03:14 PM
jetsboog, what about it is offensive? I'm not saying the guy should get away with anything, he definitely did something wrong, but I don't think it should matter whether he hit people in a limo or whether he hit people in a jalopy, it seemed like a real railroading to me, and it seemed to be based on whatever "extra" societal value was placed on the victims. I thought we were all equal under the law, so if someone hurts me, they get the same penalty as if they hurt someone else.
EnsPulver October 08, 2013 at 03:25 PM
Brendan-you are way off base. The reason for the charge was total public disgust about an innocent child being killed in such a horrible way. I applaud the DA for trying to see what the law would allow in charging a drunk driver who killed two innocent people with a harsher charge than the norm. Heidgen was (is) the poster boy for using 2nd degree murder much more in drunk driving cases then it is used. In response to your last point an innocent child is worth more than a 20 something willingly driving drunk. The Nassau DA's decision opened the door in many other states to charging drunk drivers with this more serious offense. As a deterrent, that decision has had to have saved many lives. I find it sad that you want to bring LB political feuds into what was an excellent legal decision (and I don't even live in town.)
Charlie Cheswick October 08, 2013 at 03:35 PM
Hear, hear, EnsPulver. Well said.
Brendan October 08, 2013 at 03:37 PM
Ohhhhhh, I think I know what you guys are upset about. My bad, I think my use of the word "political" was probably poor diction. I didn't mean political in the "local" or even "national" way and I actually don't know enough about local politics to say what role that might have played in this case, nor was it my intent to bring that into this. I was speaking much more to exactly what you just alluded to, EnsPulver, that I don't think anyone, whether it is a child or an adult, should receive preference under the law when it comes to their victim-hood, "public disgust" notwithstanding, and I think Kathleen Rice basically took advantage of the climate to score some points with people, which seems kind of unfair. If I was just driving down the street and a drunk driver killed me in the same way, I would want the law to be applied the same to my killer as any other killer.
jetsboog October 08, 2013 at 03:41 PM
i didn't say it was offensive just hoped that you would look back at your post and share my opinion that it was a bit well your choice whether to remove or not
jetsboog October 08, 2013 at 03:47 PM
brendan you knew exactly what you were saying .
Brendan October 08, 2013 at 03:53 PM
jetsboog, I'm going to delete and do a "do-over", just for you, so you can see that I really am trying to discuss this and not just argue. EnsPulver even helped me a little here, it seems like they've thought about this too and reached a different conclusion than I have. I can sum it up in one shot: "Public Disgust" should not affect the prosecution of a crime. Facts and facts alone should, so that everyone can enjoy equal protection under the law.
Hel Meola October 08, 2013 at 04:36 PM
People died...children died...Doesn't matter what type of vehicle they were in, doesn't matter where they were coming from. He showed zero respect for life when he got into his car to drive after repeated attempts by his friends to prevent it. AND showed zero remorse after conviction. No judge in their right mind should reduce his sentence.
jetsboog October 08, 2013 at 04:36 PM
thank you sir a gentleman and a scholar
jetsboog October 08, 2013 at 04:37 PM
that is for brendan
Castles Made of Sand October 08, 2013 at 07:48 PM
In deference to Brendan's argument, what if the driver had been a war veteran awarded a Purple Heart or a Medal of Valor but had an addiction problem? Perhaps it might have been one of our aging parents or grandparents that the family knows really should not be driving but doesn't want to upset the apple cart? Enspulver pointed out that "...an innocent child is worth more than a 20 something willingly driving drunk". Does that then make a 20 something killed by a drunk driver worth more that a wounded veteran or grandparent? I think the point that Brendan is trying to make is that although the story is one of almost inexpressible sorrow, it doesn't change the law. Do you really believe that this 20 year old got into his car that night with thoughts of a premeditated killing of another human being? Or did his complete lack of judgement and disregard of his friend's advice bring about a horrific turn of events?
EnsPulver October 08, 2013 at 08:47 PM
It doesn't matter who the driver is and who the victim is. This is not premeditated killing. The state of mind is depraved indifference. That intent can be formed pretty quickly. If I recall there were people who tried to flag him down on the highway he was driving the wrong way on. It's not like he had to plan to find a limo to hit. Also, the DA wanted to see if they could charge 2nd degree murder and (cold as this may sound) needed a compelling case to test the limits of the law. This is not an uncommon occurrence. I would also point out that the law recognizes a class of victims called "vulnerable victims." In the case of a VV there can be an enhanced sentence. Again I think it was a good idea for the DA to charge the more serious offense, so there is another legal weapon to use when there is a case worthy of the charge. Some of you seem to think this will be the norm in drunk driving cases where there is a fatality. Well maybe it should be. In 2013 is there any excuse to drive drunk? But DA's will always have the discretion as to what to charge. In Brendan's hypothetical, if the driver that kills him can be proven to have acted with depraved indifference they also can be charge with murder. There will be no automatic decisions just a judgement based on the facts. Also war hero or not, if the person knows they have an addiction problem that renders them incapable of operating a motor vehicle and they still willingly do so and kill some one in the process, what is that? It could be murder.
Castles Made of Sand October 08, 2013 at 09:14 PM
EnsPulver, you are correct, it is murder if the deaths resulted from a depraved heart or extreme recklessness. Then I suppose just about every drunk driving fatality should be considered murder. If the charge of murder is what it takes to be a deterrent then so be it.
Christopher October 09, 2013 at 08:54 AM
A lot of the comments are on point. I must add. Never in the history of these tyoes of accidents have their been a conviction for Murder. Lets go Back to Rick Lazio Drag Racing in Point Lookout he killed the Bride and Groom was only given 1 1/3-4 for vehicular homicide. I understand what people are saying. This case in no way was second degree murder whatsoever. Vehicular Manslaughter at best. The DA in the Second Jusicial Department did not win unanimously which can be a problem in NY high Court. We will have to wait n see.
Ocean Gypsy October 09, 2013 at 09:31 AM
Again, driving is a privilege, not a right. Responsibilities are involved. The man chose to drive drunk. We have laws regarding that. What else is there to see? Two people are dead and many lives changed forever. Vehicular manslaughter or 2nd degree murder...that car was used as a weapon whether or not he knew right from wrong. My thoughts.
tom brennan October 14, 2013 at 09:43 PM
why was the limo company sued that driver did nothing wrong that is a shame. also why was the drivers family sued he was behind the wheel.
anonymous October 15, 2013 at 05:50 AM
Tom...great question. One that I raised when the lawyers announced "successfully" suing the limo company. Seems (according to Patch posters at the time) that the family was co-opted by lawyers and forced to sue. The only way to temper some of their grief was to sue the limo company who's employee was also killed. I'm definitely in the minority here but the family lost a little bit of my sympathy with their greed.

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