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Saugus family relieved at hit-and-run driver’s conviction

People have been congratulating Peter Politis in the past few days, but the Saugus man has not felt like celebrating. The dominant emotion, he said, is more of relief.

“Now, Christos will rest in peace,’’ Politis said in a telephone interview Friday.

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Christos Agganis was Politis’s 81-year-old uncle who was struck and killed by a hit and run driver as he was walking toward Politis’ Hammersmith Inn in Saugus in January 2010.

On Thursday, an Essex Superior Court jury convicted Steffany Barbanti, who is in her mid-20s, of one count of leaving the scene of an accident after causing Agganis’s death, according to Essex District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett’s office and court records.

Sentencing for Barbanti, a hairdresser, is set for Oct. 16. The law carries a minimum mandatory sentence of one year in the House of Correction or two years in state prison, depending on how much prison time the judge decides she should serve overall, attorneys said.

Politis said Agganis was struck by the car as he was heading toward the family-owned restaurant, which he visited daily. Politis said that his family has not reached a conclusion on what sentence Barbanti should be given, preferring that Saugus police and Essex prosecutors take the lead on that issue. However, he said, it is clear that “some form of punishment’’ is warranted.

“Somebody did get killed, and was left to die on the side of the road,’’ Politis said. “We now know what happened. We know who did it, and we are satisfied with the outcome. It doesn’t really change much, but it makes it a little easier. The evidence speaks for itself.’’

But Barbanti’s lawyer, Alfred Farese Jr., said the jury misheard the evidence and convicted an innocent person. “She’s just devastated,’’ he said.

Barbanti took the stand in her own defense and denied being the person who drove into Agganis, Farese said. She also testified that a tree branch broke her windshield prior to the crash and that she was stopped by a Malden police officer prior to the crash because of the damaged windshield, he said.

Farese said a witness described the vehicle that struck Agganis as dark in color; Barbanti drove a white sedan, he said. “The jury discarded all the information,’’ he said. “I really feel that this is a case where the justice system, the jury system, completely failed.’’

Two years passed before Saugus police and Essex prosecutors identified Barbanti as the driver.

Farese said there was no forensic evidence linking her to the crash, and he said a former friend falsely implicated Barbanti. A spokeswoman for Blodgett’s office declined comment on Farese’s assertions, and declined to discuss what sentence prosecutors will ask to have imposed on Barbanti.

John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@
globe.com
.
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