“People don’t want this guy out on the street,” said George’s sister, Siobhan Gibbons. “Plain and simple.
Gibbons' 69th Street bar, The Gibbons’ Home, had been open less than two years when the livery cab he was taking home after closing up was struck by Peter Rodriguez in the early morning hours of October 15, 2011.
Gibbons died on the scene and Rodriguez fled on foot. He was eventually found a month later in Connecticut. Although his family and investigators harbored suspicions that Rodriguez might have been under the influence when he hit the car carrying Gibbons, by the time of his capture there was no evidence to convict him of driving under the influence, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years.
He pled guilty to criminally negligent homicide and leaving the scene of an accident and was sentenced to 3 ½ to 7 years, the maximum penalty allowed.
In the months after Gibbons' death, his family says the Maspeth community came out in droves to support them, putting up posters as Rodriguez remained at large. Eventually, naming a Maspeth Street was named in his honor.
Now, with Rodriguez’s parole hearing slated for March 23, his family is calling on the community for their help once again, asking people to send letters to the parole board as they weigh a decision on whether to release Rodriguez or keep him behind bars.
“The community has reacted fantastically,” said Siobhan Gibbons. “The letters people are sitting down to write are unbelievable, about how his loss affected their lives and about the big part George played in the community, how everyone loved him. Letters are pouring in from people we don’t know personally, people writing about how this has affected them.”
The Gibbons family said the upcoming hearing has affected them more than they imagined, especially as they’ve navigated the disheartening policies of the parole process.
“We’ve been told that with good behavior he’ll probably be out by December 2016, and there’s nothing the parole board can do about that,” said brother Brendan Gibbons. “That he’ll never serve the full sentence, he’ll get out no matter what. That’s the policy.”
This is the latest in a series of judicial loopholes which the Gibbons’ family say have contributed to Rodriguez spending far less time in jail then he should have for the crime, which they’re now working to amend.
“We’re encouraging people to leave the scene of the crime by giving them less prison time,” said Brendan.
As of now, though, the family’s focus is keeping Rodriguez in jail as long as possible.
“We’ve got to stand strong and fight for what’s right,” said Siobhan. “And letting him out now is definitely not right.”
Letters can be submitted online at www.parole.ny.gov/letters.html, or by mail to Attn: OVA, Janet Koupash, 1220 Washington Avenue, Albany, NY 12226. All letters should include Rodriguez’s inmate information: Rodriguez, Peter NYSID: 06879028H, DIN: 12A2553.