Monday, September 1, 2014

Fast cars, short lives.......

"I've lived here for ten years and there has been an accident in almost that exact spot every year, but never as one as horrific as this," stated Amy Buchanan.

Joseph Beer, 17, lost control of his 2012 Subaru Impreza on October 8 2012 at 3:40 am and crashed into a tree on the side of the Southern State Parkway.  The stretch of road on Long Island New York is commonly referred to as "Dead Man's Curve."  Joseph had been wearing a seat belt but none of the four friends he had with him were wearing theirs.  Joseph was found wandering the road near the crash site.  His friends were not that lucky.  The horrific crash at an estimated 110 mph split the car in half and flung his friends from the remnants of the car.  None of them survived the crash.

Joseph had received the sporty car as a gift for getting good grades...... not such a terrible thing really.  The problem was that Joseph only had a learners permit.  He was not licensed to be driving with four friends in the car, not licensed to be driving that late at night and was not supposed to even be driving a car without a licensed driver who was over 21 years old with him.  Joseph suffered only minor injuries but tests following the accident showed that he also was under the influence of marijuana.

The force of the accident tore the car in two and the pieces had to be loaded separately on the flatbed tow truck.  The road was finally cleared for traffic by about 10 am that morning.  His parents claimed that they did not know that he was out driving the car and Peter Kanhai's mother stated that she did not know he was riding with Beer.  Her son had called her at 3 am to tell her that he was on his way home from the movies.  About forty minutes later, Peter, Christopher Khan, Darian Ramnarine, all 18 and from Ozone Park and Neal Rajapa, 17 from Jamaica Queens were dead.  All five of the friends were Richmond Hills HS students.

Joseph was charged with aggravated vehicular homicide, vehicular homicide, four counts of manslaughter, driving under the influence and unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.  He was facing the possibility of 25 years in jail if he was found guilty on all counts.  His parents, Aaditia and Patricia Beer were charged with unlicensed operation of a vehicle and face up to 15 days in jail as well as a $300 fine for allowing Joseph to drive that night.  At his initial court appearance, the judge doubled the bail that had been requested, ordering him held on $1 million cash or $2 million dollars bond.

Beer was released on bond on Jan 15 2013 after posting a reduced bond of $250,000 but he was returned to jail ten days later after a prosecutor reported that he had once again tested positive for marijuana.  They added that Beer showed absolute utter disregard for the severity of the situation.  He was ordered back to jail and held without bond this time.  His positive test showed that he either had been smoking while in jail or immediately after he had been released on bond.

On June 6 2014, Beer was convicted of manslaughter but the jury had deadlocked on the other charges.  The prosecutor was unsure at that time as to whether they would retry him for the other charges and for the moment he looked as though he could only be facing 5 to 15 years in jail.

The prosecution had argued that it was a dangerous mix of "weed and speed" that led to the horrific crash.  The defense had argued that the levels of marijuana in his system could not be used to accurately state that Beer was impaired since he was a frequent user.  They added that they felt that the dangerous road conditions contributed to the crash.  That section of road between exits 17 and 18 may be the scene of numerous accidents over the years but I am going to go out on a limb and state that maybe the road was not constructed for speeds in excess of 110 mph.

In July 2014, Beer pleaded guilty to the top count of aggravated vehicular homicide and took a possible 25 year sentence off the table.  He was sentenced on August 26 2014 to 5 to 15 years in jail.  The sentence would make him eligible for parole in about three years.  His lawyer had argued for Beer to be sentenced as a youthful offender since he had only been 17 at the time of the accident.  That would have limited Beer's sentence to 4 years and erased his conviction record.  The judge denied that and the prosecutor stated that Beer had never shown remorse during the trial and had even bragged in a recorded call that he would be famous when he got out.  Beer's attorney has stated that there would be an appeal on the youthful offender sentencing.  It is difficult to understand how he deserves less time in jail......... as it is, he is getting a bit over a year for each of his friends that he killed.  I don't think when someone uses a car instead of a gun to kill, they should get a lighter sentence.

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