The state Department of Motor Vehicles has decided to revoke the driver’s license of Gabriele P. Ballowe, the Angola bar owner who has been identified by police as the prime suspect in a fatal hit-and-run case.
The decision to revoke was made by Glenn E. Murray, an administrative law judge for the DMV who heard evidence about the hit-and-run case during a hearing on Jan. 16, a DMV spokeswoman said late Wednesday.
Aside from telling The Buffalo News that Murray has decided to revoke Ballowe’s license, DMV officials declined to release further details about the ruling. So far, Murray’s written decision has not been made public.
Typically, a license revocation takes effect about a month after a DMV judge issues a decision, authorities said.
Ballowe can file an appeal of the decision and can seek reinstatement of her license, the state agency said, but until her license is reinstated, she cannot legally drive. The DMV did not say how long it will be before she can apply for reinstatement.
The Angola woman has one previous conviction on her driving record, for driving-while-impaired in 2005 in the Town of Hanover in Chautauqua County, authorities told The News on Wednesday.
For the past 13 months, Evans Police have called Ballowe, 49, the prime suspect in the Dec. 22, 2013 hit-and-run death of Barry T. Moss, 52, an Evans handyman who had three daughters and several grandchildren.
Based on witness interviews and physical evidence, police strongly believe that Ballowe – after a night of drinking in a Hamburg restaurant – struck and fatally injured Moss with her Ford sport utility vehicle, Police Chief Ernest Masullo said.
Police found traces of Moss’ DNA on Ballowe’s vehicle, and also found broken pieces from the vehicle near Moss’ body, Detective Lt. Douglas Czora said. He said all evidence points to Ballowe as the driver of the vehicle.
Ballowe has refused to speak about the accident with police or the news media. She did not testify at the Jan. 16 DMV hearing. Her attorney, Thomas J. Eoannou, said Ballowe is exercising her constitutional rights by refusing to discuss the accident with police.
Eoannou said he is “not surprised” by Murray’s ruling. He said he will file an appeal for his client as soon as possible.
“I can’t go into the details, but my belief is that this was a tragic accident, and not a crime,” Eoannou told The News.
Eoannou said he is aware of Ballowe’s 2005 driving-while-impaired conviction but did not represent her in that case. DMV officials did not say whether the previous conviction had any bearing on Murray’s decision to revoke Ballowe’s license.
Although police list Ballowe as the driver on their reports on Moss’ death, Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III has said he does not feel police have obtained enough evidence to convict her.
A grand jury voted to indict Ballowe on felony charges last May, but a top aide to Sedita convinced grand jurors to take a second vote, urging them not to indict, The News has reported. After the Sedita aide told grand jurors that there was not enough evidence to get a conviction, they voted not to indict Ballowe.
The fact that Moss was heavily intoxicated at the time he was hit, and the fact that no one witnessed the incident, make it a difficult case to prove, said Sedita.
The DA’s handling of the case greatly upset members of Moss’ family, who have publicly criticized Sedita on several occasions. Michael P. Caffery, an attorney for Moss’ surviving family members, filed a lawsuit against Ballowe, blaming her for his death.
“Based on the testimony of the two Evans police officers who were the only witnesses at the hearing, I’m not surprised” at Murray’s decision to revoke Ballowe’s license, Caffery said late Wednesday. “There was no evidence offered to dispute the officers. The officers said they believed (Ballowe) was the driver, and it appears that the judge came to the same conclusion.”
Officers testified at the hearing that Ballowe was drinking and eating with friends at a Hamburg restaurant before the hit-and-run incident. They said a waitress at the bar thought Ballowe appeared to be intoxicated and offered her a ride home. They said Ballowe refused the offer and got into the driver’s seat of her SUV, and headed for home alone, about 20 minutes before Moss was hit by the SUV.
The witnesses also testified that another motorist saw Ballowe’s SUV driving erratically and running a stop sign near the accident scene shortly after Moss was hit. Police said he did not see who was driving the SUV but saw the driver pull into the parking lot and park the vehicle outside Ballowe’s home.
Moss’ sister, Maria Wrafter, said after the Jan. 16 hearing that – based on what she heard at the hearing – Ballowe should not be allowed to drive again.
“She could be a danger to you, me, or any of our children,” Wrafter said of Ballowe.
License revocation was the strongest action that Murray could take after the hearing, which was a noncriminal proceeding.