By Stephen J. Kotz
Sean P. Ludwick, the Manhattan developer charged in the death of Paul Hansen, a 53-year-old Sag Harbor real estate agent and builder, pleaded guilty to felony aggravated vehicular homicide and two other charges on Tuesday in Central Islip as part of a plea deal reached between Suffolk County Justice Fernando Camacho and Mr. Ludwick’s defense attorneys.
As part of the plea arrangment, Mr. Ludwick, 44, will serve between three and nine years in state prison. Assistant District Attorney Ray Varuolo had asked the judge to consider a sentence of five to 15 years. A formal sentencing hearing will be held on October 18.
At the outset of a short hearing, a handcuffed Mr. Ludwick, who wore a black suit and white shirt, turned to face members of Mr. Hansen’s family, who were seated in the courtroom.
“I’d just like to say I’m very sorry. I feel awful for the circumstances,” he said. “I want to extend my deepest sympathies and remorse, particularly to Austin and Hunter,” he said, referring to Mr. Hansen’s sons.
It was the first time Mr. Ludwick had addressed the family since the crash on August 30, 2015, that claimed Mr. Hansen’s life.
Family members, who had expressed frustration earlier this month by the slow pace of the legal process, were composed.
Outside the courtroom, Scott Middleton, an attorney who is representing Mr. Hansen’s wife and children in a civil suit seeking unspecified damages from Mr. Ludwick, said his apology was long overdue. “Nothing that transpires today, or on October 18, is going to bring Paul back,” he said.
Pressed by reporters for a family member to speak, Bob Hansen, who has served as the family’s spokesman after most hearings, said the family appreciated the fact that Mr. Ludwick had finally owned up for his actions.
“I think we just appreciated that that he recognized that,” he said. “Whether it was his true feelings or not his true feelings, I can’t really tell you. You’ll have to ask him. I think the family appreciates him addressing us, and I think we’ll leave it at that.”
Mr. Ludwick’s head attorney, William Keahon, issued a brief statement, saying Mr. Ludwick had “expressed his apologies and accepted his responsibility.” He added that Mr. Ludwick hoped to settle the civil suit as well.
Besides the aggravated vehicular homicide charge, which is the most serious charge contained in a 13-count indictment handed up by a grand jury in December 2015, Mr. Ludwick agreed to plead guilty to leaving the scene of an accident with death or injury, a felony, and aggravated driving while intoxicated, a misdemeanor.
Judge Camacho said he would sentence Mr. Ludwick to one to three years in prison for the second felony and one year for the DWI charge, to be served concurrently with the longer term.
Mr. Varuolo asked the court for a longer sentence, pointing out that a test showed Mr. Ludwick to have a blood alcohol content of 0.18 percent, more than double the legal limit, five hours after the crash. He said Mr. Ludwick had fled the scene and was apprehended about a quarter mile away when his damaged Porsche convertible stalled.
After Mr. Ludwick’s apology, Judge Camacho went over the details of the plea deal with the defendant, who admitted he was driving drunk when he lost control of his car and struck a telephone pole as he drove Mr. Hansen to his home on Rolling Hills Court East in Noyac. The accident occurred just down the street from Mr. Hansen’s home, where the two men’s sons were having a sleepover. Mr. Ludwick admitted he left the scene of the accident, but he was not asked, nor did he acknowledge, prosecutors’ charges that he dragged Mr. Hansen’s body from the wreckage and left him dead in the street.
Judge Camacho repeatedly reminded Mr. Ludwick that has part of his plea deal he would have to waive his right to appeal and asked him if he had any questions about the proceedings.
“Not at this moment,” Mr. Ludwick replied. “Well, this is the moment,” the judge responded, telling Mr. Ludwick he would not have a chance to reconsider once he entered his plea. The judge then ordered a pre-sentencing report and set the October 18 sentencing date.
After the accident, Mr. Ludwick, who has a house on Brick Kiln Road in Bridgehampton and also lives on Sutton Place in Manhattan, was free on $1 million bond, as he awaited a grand jury’s findings. Shortly after he was indicted, though, prosectutors say he hatched a scheme while in Puerto Rico to buy a boat that would be large enough sail to Central or South America, where he would seek asylum in a country that did not have an extradition treaty with the United States.
Proscecutors said Mr. Ludwick’s plans were reported to them by his sailing instructor — a former Federal Bureau of Investigations agent — who had apparently Googled his student.
At a January 2016 bail hearing, at which prosecutors revealed the result of their search of Mr. Ludwick’s personal computer and cell phone, which showed numerous web searches related to fleeing prosecution, Judge Camacho revoked Mr. Ludwick’s bond and ordered him held in county jail at Yaphank. He has remained there since 2016