Two Sentenced in Fiery LI Crash That Killed Newly Engaged Couple — And Families Are Upset With Punishment - NBC New York

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Two Sentenced in Fiery LI Crash That Killed Newly Engaged Couple — And Families Are Upset With Punishment

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Two People Sentenced For Crash That Killed Couple

    The judge sentenced one of the drivers to 18 years-to-life in prison, and the other to a term of 3-9 years. The couple killed, who recently had gotten engaged, was driving home from a Passover celebration when they were hit head-on in the Long Island crash. NBC New York’s Greg Cergol reports.

    (Published Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019)

    What to Know

    • The drivers convicted in a LI crash that killed a couple were sentenced, but the victims’ families didn’t get closure they were hoping for

    • Rahmel Watkins was sentenced to 18 years-to-life in prison, while Zakiyyah Steward was given a term between three and nine years

    • The families of Elisheva Kaplan and her fiancé Yisroel Levin wanted a lengthier sentence for Watkins

    The drivers found responsible for a fiery Long Island crash that killed a newly engaged couple were sentenced Tuesday afternoon — but the victims’ families didn’t get the closure they were hoping for.

    Rahmel Watkins, a repeat offender, was sentenced to 18 years-to-life in prison, while Zakiyyah Steward was given a term between three and nine years by the judge for her role in the deaths of Elisheva Kaplan and her fiancé Yisroel Levin.

    Prosecutors said Watkins was going more than 100 mph and Steward was high as she drove about 80 mph on the Nassau Expressway in Inwood in the early hours of April 5, 2018. The two were speeding side-by-side when Watkins tried to pass Steward, but lost control of his vehicle and slammed into the car driven by Levin and Kaplan, who died at the scene.

    The sentence handed down did not satisfy the newly betrothed couple’s loved ones, who were looking for the maximum sentences.

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    (Published Wednesday, April 4, 2018)

    “I'd like him to come out here and address everyone and explain himself,” said Samuel Levin, the father of Yisroel, referring to the judge who sentenced the pair. Watkins’ attorney asked the judge for less than the maximum prison term, arguing the Brooklyn man came from a Brooklyn family, was raised on the street and “never had a chance.”

    Steward’s mother was in the teary-eyed courtroom on Tuesday, saying that her daughter “regrets it all.” In court, Steward said she made a stupid decision that she’ll have to live with for the rest of her life, adding she hopes the victims’ families will someday forgive her.

    Watkins did not speak in court, but his attorney said he was also sorry.

    “We hope Mr. Watkins and Ms. Steward could turn their lives around,” said Joel Kaplan.

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