More than a dozen uniformed Nassau County police officers packed a Mineola courtroom Tuesday in a show of support for their fallen colleague Michael Califano of Wantagh, who nearly four days before was in the line of duty on the Long Island Expressway in Old Westbury. Califano used to be an employee of the in East Meadow for 10 years.
The truck driver accused of falling asleep at the wheel and colliding into Califano, John Kaley of New Britain, Connecticut, made his second court appearance and was released on bail.
Judge Erica Prager set bail at $90,000 bond or $47,500 cash.
When Kaley was arrested on Saturday and charged in the deadly accident, he was ordered held without bail at his arraignment hearing in Hempstead. However, Kaley’s newly hired attorney, William Petrillo, argued that bail should be allowed since his client is not a flight risk and the most serious charge is criminally negligent homicide, a non-violent Class E felony.
In addition to facing this charge, Kaley was charged with three counts of third-degree assault and failing to move over for an emergency vehicle. As part of the conditions for his bail, Kaley must surrender his passport, wear an electronic monitoring device to make sure he does not leave Connecticut and is forbidden from driving any vehicle.
After Prager’s decision to reduce Kaley’s bail after Saturday’s arraignment, Nassau County Police Benevolent Association President James Carver expressed frustration that the man accused of causing Califano’s death would be allowed to go free on bail.
“We have a dead police officer who hasn’t been buried yet and [Kaley] gets to go on with the rest of his life,” said Carver, who was flanked by police officers as he spoke to reporters outside the Nassau County Court West Wing, the site of Tuesday’s legal proceedings. “We are disappointed that the law only allows this type of bail.”
When Petrillo walked out of court with Kaley’s fiancée he argued that his client was arrested for an accident. “It was a horrible tragedy but is not a crime,” said Petrillo. “There is no criminal misconduct.”
Kaley is due back in court on Feb. 23.
Kaley’s late court appearance came a few hours before Califano’s wake was scheduled at the Massapequa Funeral Home, with visiting hours scheduled from 2 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. A funeral Mass for Califano is scheduled for Thursday at 12 p.m. at in Seaford, where his three sons, Michael, Christopher and Andrew, attend school. Due to the funeral and the anticipated large crowd of mourners, classes on Thursday at have been canceled.
Many people will pay tribute to Califano, including those from his Wantagh neighborhood, where many have displayed American flags outside their homes. The Nassau County PBA has also organized the Michael J. Califano Memorial Fund to raise money for his family. People interested in contributing can mail checks to: Care of Nassau PBA, 89 East Jericho Turnpike, Mineola, NY 11501.