New Jersey

NYC Teen Gets Up to 15 Years in Long Island Crash That Killed 4 Friends

The New York City teenager who admitted smoking marijuana and speeding before crashing into a tree in 2012, killing four of his friends, has been sentenced to five to 15 years in prison. 

The judge decided against a four-year youthful offender sentence Tuesday for Joseph Beer, the Queens 19-year-old who pleaded guilty in July to the top count of aggravated vehicular homicide in the fiery crash on the Southern State Parkway. A jury had deadlocked on the charge, but a month later Beer decided to plead guilty to spare the families of his friends who died a second trial, his attorney said.

"I hate myself for what I've done," Beer said at the sentencing hearing Tuesday. He said he begged "forgiveness" from each of the families who lost a loved one. 

The mother of one of the victims wept as she addressed the court, saying she knew Beer didn't intend to kill his friends on that October day two years ago. She said it was the worst day of her life, and that now whenever she wants to visit her son, she has to go to the cemetery.

Beer also pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of marijuana. Defense attorney Todd Greenberg had argued that unlike blood-alcohol standards for drunken driving, police and prosecutors have yet to develop a reliable measurement for impairment from marijuana.

An expert at the trial testified that because Beer was a chronic marijuana smoker, his body's ability to process the active ingredient in marijuana may be different from someone who is an occasional user.

Greenberg said he has requested that his client be granted youthful offender status because the accident happened when Beer was 17. That would've given him a sentence of four years.

Before the judge sentenced Beer, the prosecutor painted the teenager as an unapologetic man who, one month after the crash, allegedly told an inmate he was going to be famous. The prosecutor said Beer has shown "an utter lack of remorse." He allegedly was driving in excess of 100 mph.

The uncle of victim Peter Kanhai said Beer's careless decisions destroyed five families. 

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. The spectacular crash cut the high-performance Subaru in half, killing the four boys instantly.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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