Joseph Beer, the South Richmond Hill teenager who was at the wheel of his new car in 2012 when he slammed into a tree on the Southern State Parkway killing four of his friends, was sentenced to up to 15 years in prison Tuesday.
Beer pleaded guilty in July to aggravated vehicular homicide and admitted he was driving under the influence of marijuana on Oct. 7, 2012 when his car crashed on a notorious curve on the Southern State Parkway just before Exit 17 in Lakeview, LI. Christopher Khan, Peter Kanhai, Darian Ramnarine and Neil Rajapa were all killed. Beer survived and was found at the scene alert with only minor injuries.
The five boys all attended Richmond Hill High School and the incident shook the entire school community. The funeral for Khan, held three days after the crash, brought out over 100 people, including many students, parents and teachers from the school.
Beer, who did not have a driver’s license at the time, stood trial in Nassau County, but a jury deadlocked on a litany of charges, including manslaughter, reckless endangerment and reckless driving. Aggravated vehicular homicide was the only one Beer pleaded guilty to.
At issue was whether or not marijuana impairs drivers in the same way as alcohol and if the drug, which Beer admitted to smoking the day of the accident, was the cause. Beer’s attorneys contended that the site of the crash, the notorious “blood alley,” is dangerous when traffic is light, as it was at the time of the accident, and questioned if the highway’s design was what ultimately caused the crash.
Prosecutors sought a second trial, but Beer pleaded guilty to avoid it because he did not want the victim’s families to go through another trial, his attorney told several news outlets.
A judge rejected a request by Beer’s lawyers to sentence him to only four years because he was 17 at the time of the incident.