Steven Kinalis, 32, of Ronkonkoma, Was High on Prescription Drugs When He Caught a Pickup Truck in December 2011
An admitted Long Island driver under the influence of prescription drugs was sentenced Monday to up to 16 and a half years in prison, breaking into sobs while showing a Suffolk judge John’s 5-year-old handprints as they showed sympathy towards Teri Gaffney, mother of the victim who died last year in an auto accident.
Early Life and Education
Steven Kinalis, 32, from Ronkonkoma has admitted he was high on prescription drugs when his car collided with the pickup truck of a West Islip family headed out to buy their Christmas tree in December 2011. As a result, Kinalis could face up to 16 years in prison for the death of a kindergarten student.
On Monday in a Riverhead courtroom, family and friends of 5-year-old John Thomas Gaffney broke down sobbing as his mother Teri showed Suffolk judge their baby blue handprints.
After agreeing to a plea deal that saw Kinalis sentenced to at least 15 years behind bars, his arraignment was moved into a larger room to accommodate for the crowd that packed into courtroom. According to DA Kevin Broughel’s account of what transpired that day involving hundreds of pills purchased via doctor-shopping for addiction before hitting Gaffney family pickup truck on Sunrise Highway Shirley.
Prosecutors believe Steven Kinalis was under the influence of prescription drugs when he caused the crash that killed 5-year-old John Gaffney two years ago while driving down Sunrise Highway in Shirley. Following his plea of guilty in Suffolk County Court, Kinalis faces between five and 16 1/2 years of incarceration for aggravated vehicular homicide. When driving his Toyota Scion down Sunrise Highway two years ago he rear-ended a pickup truck driven by John’s family on their way to purchase their tree; rear end colliding head on with them on Sunrise Highway when rear end colliding with another truck driven by family from John Gaffney’s family; killing John’s mother from whom he knew nothing before hitting them both head on after rear ending it had happened in Suffolk County Court two years before this fatality took place.
Kinalis’ arraignment was moved from its original courtroom on Tuesday morning, in order to accommodate members of West Islip who came down from West Islip to Riverhead to show support for John Gaffney and his family’s quest for justice. They created a “Justice for John Gaffney” Facebook page, donated money, made donations, and delivered meals directly to him and his family.
Achievement and Honors
Steven Kinalis hails from The Bronx in New York. His extensive list of awards and honors include graduating with an MFA from UCLA in 2015. Since then he has worked as both screenwriter for Dead of Summer on Freeform as well as staff writer on Pose for USA Network.
He wrote and directed Afuera, which has been featured at several prestigious film festivals such as LA Film Festival.
As an active member of Writers Guild of America and winner of numerous coveted fellowships and grants, he was named by Variety in 2011 one of 10 ‘New Faces of Independent Filmmaking”. At Sundance 2016, Pose won him an Award as well. Currently living in West Islip New York with his wife.
At Steven Kinalis’ arraignment on Tuesday morning at Riverhead courthouse, an expanded courtroom was needed to accommodate for all those attending his arraignment – family, friends, and West Islip community members who came out in support of Gaffney family in their pursuit of justice for an innocent boy whose voice had been silenced so suddenly.
Prosecutors allege that Kinalis was high on both oxycodone and Xanax when his car collided with John Gaffney’s pickup truck on Sunrise Highway in Mastic. This accident resulted in his death; John had been on his way to buy Christmas trees with his family when it occurred.
Ronkonkoma resident 32-year-old Joshua Marra will serve up to 16 and a half years behind bars for the crash that claimed four lives and caused more than 100 injuries, after pleading guilty last month to vehicular homicide, manslaughter, driving while impaired by prescription drugs and vehicular homicide charges.
Steven Kinalis, 30, of Ronkonkoma is charged with taking an assortment of prescription drugs before rear-ending a West Islip family’s pickup truck and killing 5-year-old John Gaffney. A search of Kinalis’ home revealed two partially filled bottles of Oxycodone; Xanax (an anti-anxiety medication); Soma (muscle relaxant); and Adderall (an amphetamine). Prosecutors allege they also discovered marijuana and a fake ID document among other medications allegedly taken prior to rear-ending John’s truck.
At a hearing Wednesday, a judge increased Kinalis’ bail to $300,000. He has been charged with misdemeanor driving while impaired by drugs; however, prosecutors requested an adjournment to consider “significant felony upgrade charges,” though his lawyer, Steven Gaitman stated they did not know exactly what these were. Kinalis lived at 426 Boulder Street in Ronkonkoma; 90 Middleton Rd in Bohemia APT 6 and 4 Bryant Street Bethpage respectively before this arrest was made.