Updated: November 19, 2010, 12:08 PM
Pieri, 36, of the Town of Tonawanda, was convicted in Amherst Town Court on a misdemeanor charge of criminal solicitation for his role in the March 7, 2009, accident on Main Street near Daemen College.
Town Justice Mark G. Farrell said that while Pieri's lawyer made a good attempt at getting his client off the hook for his "reprehensible behavior" by citing a legal technicality, the testimony he heard last month is credible enough for him to find Pieri guilty.
"I think the defendant hides between a distinction of immorality and illegality," Farrell said.
This unusual case resulted in the separate conviction of the driver, Andrea L. Glinski, for leaving an accident that put one of the women in a coma. Glinski is serving a one- to three-year term in Beacon Correctional Facility.
Pieri, 36, who was a passenger in the car, faces a maximum penalty of a year in jail at his sentencing Feb. 17. He was released on his own recognizance.
Farrell praised Pieri's defense lawyer, John Pieri, a distant relative of the defendant, and prosecutor Kelley A. Omel, chief of the Erie County District Attorney's Vehicular Crimes Unit, for raising strong arguments during and after the nonjury trial.
But ultimately, he said, nothing excuses the defendant's "moral responsibility" to encourage Glinski to remain at the scene and report the accident.
Family and friends of one of the victims, Amy E. Stewart, smiled and patted each other excitedly when Farrell handed down the verdict. Pieri and his lawyer said nothing.
The accident occurred at Main and Campus Drive. Glinski and Pieri said they didn't realize they had struck two people. After a collision shop tip led to Glinski's arrest, she and Pieri were questioned.
They told police that immediately after the accident Glinski asked Pieri what she should do, and he told her to drive off after the light turned green.
Both Stewart, 24, and the other victim, Rachel D. Baird, were hospitalized. Stewart suffered the more serious injuries, which left her in a coma.
Stewart said she was happy with the guilty verdict and looks forward to sentencing. "It's another waiting game now," she said.
Baird was not in court Thursday.
Stewart, a former runner and soccer player since age 4, said she has returned to work as an elementary school reading aide and is happy to be walking on her own again after first being told she might never leave a wheelchair.
One day, she said, she hopes to run again.
Stewart also said she stays in touch with Baird, who is working as a high school substitute teacher and doing well.
Stewart's mother, AnnMarie cq, said she hopes Pieri's conviction serves as a lesson to others.
"I hope that people take notice of the judge's decision and take responsibility and accountability for their actions," she said.
She added that she is proud of her daughter for all her hard work on getting well.
"This woman works every day at getting better," she said. "She wants her life back, and she's working to get it back."