Chief Investigative Reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.

Teen Pleads Guilty to Top Charge in Crash That Killed Four Friends

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    A Queens teenager found guilty of second-degree manslaughter and reckless driving in an October 2012 crash that killed four of his friends pleaded guilty Tuesday to aggravated vehicular homicide, the top charge against him, in a deal to lessen prison time.

    The Nassau County jury was deadlocked on that charge against 19-year-old Joseph Beer despite convicting him on the other counts. Beer was 17 when, prosecutors say, he drove in excess of 110 mph on the Southern State Parkway on Long Island, smashing into a tree. 

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    The crash happened on a stretch of highway dubbed "Dead Man's Curve" because of a treacherous hill that leads to a sharp curve in the highway. As Beer approached Exit 17N, he lost control of the car and skidded over 200 feet across all three lanes of traffic, then left the road and hit the tree.

    The crash cut the high-performance Subaru in half. Beer's four friends, 17-year-old Neal Rajapa, 18-year-old Christophper Kahn, 18-year-old Darian Ramnarine and 18-year-old Peter Kanhai, were all thrown from the car and killed instantly.

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    During the trial, Beer's defense attorney conceded that the teen was speeding and high on pot but said the dangerous curve caused the crash.

    Beer is "remorseful and never wanted this to happen," his lawyer Todd Greenberg said Tuesday. "He just wants this to end so everyone can move on."

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    Under the plea deal, Beer will face five to 15 years in prison.

    Prosecutor Maureen McCormick said the district attorney's office agreed to the deal "to spare the victims' families from another trial."

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    Greenberg says he will appeal the conviction and seek youthful offender status for Beer to further limit his jail time.

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