Video in fatal Schenectady hit-and-run scrutinized
Police say accused initially denied driving truck
SCHENECTADY Anthony Gallo’s cover story was detailed, but it was just that, a cover story.
Under questioning by city police Det. Loretta Marco in connection with the Nov. 16 hit-and-run death of college student Cassandra Boone, Gallo first said he wasn’t driving that night. He claimed essentially that he had loaned his truck out that evening in exchange for drugs.
In a video recording of the interrogation played in court Tuesday afternoon at a pretrial hearing, Gallo is seen detailing that alternate account.
Confronted by Marco with an inconsistency in his story, his truck seen pulling in to Yates Village two hours before Gallo said it returned, he cracked.
“I didn’t see her coming across the road,” Gallo ultimately said, appearing emotional on the video. “The light just turned yellow. I didn’t know what to do.”
What he did was drive off, leaving the 19-year-old Boone fatally injured in the roadway at the busy intersection of Erie Boulevard and State Street.
The portion of the video played in court Tuesday contains important evidence for the prosecution, but also potentially for the defense.
Gallo finally admitted to driving that night, hitting Boone and driving off, essentially the elements of one of the felony charges he faces, leaving the scene of a fatal accident.
He was also adamant about one of the other allegations being unfounded. While he confessed to a “bad drug problem” and said he was coming directly from his drug dealer with drugs in hand, he was not high at the time of the accident.
“I didn’t mean anything,” Gallo told Marco at one point, putting his head in his hands, “but I wasn’t under the influence. I was on my way home, I just … ”
It is this issue that is expected to be central to Gallo’s eventual trial. He is on course to that trial after rejecting a plea deal last week that would have given him 71⁄2 to 15 years in prison, according to his attorney, Paul Callahan.
The top count lodged against him, aggravated vehicular homicide, could get him up to 25 years in prison, if he is convicted. It also requires prosecutors to prove Gallo wasn’t simply driving the car that struck Boone, but was under the influence at the time.
While maintaining he wasn’t high at the time of the accident, Gallo also told Marco he got high once he got to his Yates Village destination. Police weren’t able to catch up with him until the next morning, meaning any blood test might have trouble discerning drug use from before and after the accident. He was in the police interview room by 8 a.m.
Tuesday’s hearing was to determine whether prosecutors could use the interrogation video and any other statements Gallo allegedly made to police at trial. No decisions were made Tuesday, and the hearing is expected to continue next month. Judicial hearing officer Michael C. Eidens is presiding.
Prosecutor Brian Gray has declined to detail the case against Gallo. In court Tuesday, prosecutors played the video, with the detective who interviewed Gallo on the stand.
Gallo initially tried to throw Marco off, weaving an alibi centered around his drug use. He didn’t have his truck the previous night, he said, because he’d loaned it out for about $160 worth of drugs. He even gave a name for the driver.
The driver was supposed to return the truck that evening, but was late, returning it about 9:30 p.m. Gallo said he had called the man repeatedly to find out where his truck was.
After letting Gallo give his details, virtually all it took for Marco to get Gallo to admit he was actually in the driver’s seat was to point out that police had video of the truck entering Yates Village, where Gallo was. The video showed it returning two hours earlier than Gallo said, and just after the accident.
“I was coming from my dealer’s house,” Gallo soon said. “I didn’t even get high yet.”
Having left the scene, Gallo still had no idea how badly Boone was injured.
He asked about the person he hit.
“She didn’t die, did she?” Gallo asked.
Marco confirmed that she had. Gallo put his hands to his face and started sobbing.
He didn’t mean it, he didn’t see her, it was raining out, he got scared, Gallo could be heard saying between sobs.
Gallo, looking thinner in the video than he appeared Tuesday in orange jail clothing, finally asked about himself. He wasn’t leaving the police department that day, was he?
“I swerved. I was scared,” Gallo said at another point. “I didn’t even know if it was female or male. I saw a person.”
Gallo again said he wasn’t high, but he also didn’t have a valid driver’s license. Police have said he had 10 active suspensions at the time of the accident.
After the accident, he returned to his girlfriend’s apartment at Yates Village. The entire account of the exchange wasn’t clear in the courtroom, but the girlfriend was disgusted, Gallo said.
After recounting more details of the accident — he wasn’t going fast, his windshield wipers worked but weren’t the best — Gallo’s thoughts returned to the woman he left fatally injured.
“Did she have a family?” he asked.
Boone was described by those who knew her as a woman with a kind heart, someone who devoted her time to classes at Schenectady County Community College and volunteered at a local nursery school. She also had dreams of owning her own day care center.