10/01/2002 11:00PM

A guilty plea in Cordero death


NEW YORK - The driver whose car struck and killed Marjorie Cordero, the former trainer and jockey, in January of 2001 pleaded guilty on Tuesday in Nassau County court to a felony charge of leaving the scene of a fatal accident.

Robert Mikols, 63, will likely be sentenced to six months in jail and five years of probation, according to Rick Hinshaw, a spokesman for the Nassau County district attorney's office. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 20. Mikols faces a maximum sentence of four years in jail.

"It's up to the judge's discretion, obviously, but this is considered the norm for someone with no prior record," Hinshaw said, referring to the six-month jail sentence.

Angel Cordero Jr., the retired Hall of Fame jockey and Majorie Cordero's husband, reacted angrily on Wednesday. "I'm really disappointed, to be honest with you," Cordero said. "Now he's admitted it after two years, and he gets the minimum? How can you run somebody over and get the minimum? That's pitiful."

Mikols, a crane operator who lives in Glen Cove, N.Y., told prosecutors that on the night of Jan. 22, 2001, his car struck Cordero from behind as she was walking across Glen Cove Road, a busy thoroughfare in Greenvale, N.Y. Mikols immediately left the scene, prosecutors said.

Mikols surrendered to the police three months later, after the police had impounded his car as part of their investigation. Throughout the investigation, prosecutors said, they believed that Mikols did not intend to hit Cordero, but that he should have stopped to render aid and been available to investigators.

"Two families are suffering," said Joel Winograd, Mikols's lawyer, on Wednesday. "Mr. Mikols is a hard-working individual who has led a law-abiding life. His heart goes out to the Cordero family."

Cordero was 41 at the time of the accident, which occurred several hundred yards from her home. An autopsy report showed that she had a blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit at the time of the accident.

During a 24-year career at the racetrack, Cordero worked as a hotwalker, jockey, trainer, and jockey's agent, and she was one of the more popular figures on New York's backstretches.

The former Marjorie Clayton and Angel Cordero were married in 1989, the year he was inducted into Thoroughbred racing's Hall of Fame. The couple have three children.

- additional reporting by David Grening