By MAGGIE HABERMAN
July 8, 2000
The grandson of Dodgers and Mets great Gil Hodges was charged yesterday with killing his best friend in a booze-fueled, freak car accident in Brooklyn – but the Mafia may now be his worst worry.
The victim, Lance Marino, 27, died instantly of head injuries Thursday night in Williamsburg when he fell off the roof of Hodges’ moving Range Rover in what apparently began as a drunken prank, cops said.
Marino’s brother, Craig, is a reputed associate in a crew of the Luchese crime family based in Mill Basin, where Hodges and the victim were also neighbors, law-enforcement sources said.
“The question now is: Is Gil Hodges Jr. a dead man walking?” said one investigator, alluding to fears of retribution.
Hodges, 26, was arraigned last night on charges including manslaughter, reckless endangerment and drunken driving. Brooklyn Criminal Court Judge John DeLury set bail at $25,000.
The accident happened at 9:30 p.m. Thursday, after the two friends spent time drinking at the North Side Cafe in Williamsburg.
Marino stretched out on the roof of Hodges’ car, and Hodges – either as a prank, or with Marino’s consent, began driving south on Kent Avenue with his friend still up there, cops said.
About a mile south, at the corner of Division St., Marino fell off the car’s roof, hitting his head and dying at the scene. No skid marks were left, cops said.
Marino – 6-foot-1, with blue-dyed hair -died wearing a $68,000 Rolex and carrying thousands of dollars in his pocket, sources said.
Hodges refused to take a Breathalizer test at the scene. Blood drawn later under court order showed an alcohol content of 0.19 percent – nearly twice the legal limit.
Hodges was driving with a suspended learner’s permit, cops said.
His record shows three convictions for speeding and driving without a license in 1996 and 1998.
But Hodges is more concerned now with the death of his best buddy, his lawyer said.
“IT WAS AN ACCIDENT,” the lawyer, VINCENT ROMANO, said yesterday. “THEY WERE THE BEST OF FRIENDS. IT’S A VERY UNFORTUNATE SITUATION.
“NOW, TO ADD INSULT TO INJURY, THEY’RE CHARGING HIM WITH MANSLAUGHTER,” ROMANO added.
“I THINK MAYBE THEY’RE JUMPING THE GUN A BIT.”
The pair were collaborating on launching their own record label, ROMANO said.
Nearly two dozen family members and friends gathered at Marino’s Mill Basin address last night – but declined to comment.
Hodges’ grandfather was an eight-time All-Star Dodger first baseman, who later became known as the “Miracle Worker” for managing the underdog Mets to the 1969 championship. He died in 1972.
Hodges’ father said only this about his son’s troubles: “We’re all just in shock. It hurts too much for me to talk about it right now.”