Two dozen New York State troopers lined the hall outside of court Friday after a plea agreement let Jesse Cohen walk out a free man after serving 30 days in jail for driving distracted when he hit Trooper Joseph Gallagher in Suffolk County three years ago.
The uniformed officers stood in silence, making sure Cohen felt the emotion from the co-workers of the trooper nearly killed in the 2017 crash.
"If we could plead with the public, please pub down the phone. It can wait," said Captain Jose Febo of the New York State Police.
That warning prosecutors say was ignored by Cohen, and yet he was sentenced to time served - 30 days in jail and three years probation - despite causing the 2017 crash that left Trooper Joseph Gallagher with a traumatic brain injury.
Trooper Gallagher was struck by an Cohen's vehicle while helping a stranded motorist on an overpass linking the Long Island Expressway and the Sagtikos Parkway.
Prosecutors say Cohen was driving home that day, both texting and using social media apps behind the wheel.
"I don't think the law has stayed up with the perils of distracted driving," Special Prosecutor Julia Cornachio said.
The assistant district attorney says Cohen was sentenced to the most time allowed under the current law.
"Jesse has taken full responsibility for his actions from the very first day," Cohen's lawyer, Louis Roman, said outside court.
Earlier he dabbed tears from his eyes as Gallagher's wife and family told of their pain. Laura Gallagher detailed how her 3- and 6-year-old girls keep asking, "Is daddy going to get better and come home?"
Gallagher's sister urged Cohen to become a helper like her brother, to do good in the world and do it for Cohen.
"Jesse is dedicating the rest of his life to urging people about the dangers of driving while texting and distracted driving," Roman said.