A former NYPD officer pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident in the June hit-and-run that killed a girl with Down syndrome on Long Island.
Michael Elardo, 48, of Syosset, pleaded guilty Wednesday to the felony charge in exchange for receiving less jail time. The 13-year NYPD veteran who retired on disability in 1998 after an injury admitted to hitting 13-year-old Bryanna Soplin with his car as the girl crossed Hempstead Turnpike in Levittown June 15.
Soplin was taken to the hospital with head and body trauma and died about four hours after the impact.
Elardo surrendered to police a day later. His attorney said at the time that the single father of four didn't pull over because he thought he had hit a traffic cone.
In court Wednesday, Judge Gerald Carter confirmed with Elardo that he knew he hit a person.
"You knew you hit a human," the judge said.
Elardo answered, "Yes."
"You knew you didn't hit a cone," the judge added.
Again, Elardo said, "Yes."
As he left court, Elardo stopped to speak with Soplin's mother and grandmother, who had sat weeping, embracing each other through the hearing. He apologized to them, then told reporters, "I hope and pray that they could find some closure today with me coming in and admitting I'm guilty. It's been hard for me and my family but it doesn't compare to the suffering she's going through."
Soplin's mother, Jennifer Curuchaga, said outside court that she didn't think Elardo's apology was genuine. She said the guilty plea helped "a little bit," but "my baby is not coming back and nothing he can do can change that."
Prosecutors said they had red light camera video that showed Elardo strike the girl in the crosswalk; the video showed she had the right of way, not Elardo.
Elardo faces a year and a third to four years in prison when he is sentenced Oct. 14.
The NYPD said the department has not had contact with Elardo since he retired on disability.