MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A Queens man accused of driving high and speeding in a 2012 crash that killed four of his friends was found guilty Friday in a Long Island trial.
As CBS 2’s Steve Langford reported, Beer was found guilty of four counts of second degree manslaughter. He was also convicted of reckless driving and reckless endangerment.
“He’s just the property of Nassau County right now,” said Joseph Beer’s father, Aditia Beer.
Prosecutors said Joseph Beer, 19, was high and impaired after smoking $20 worth of marijuana and then driving more than 100 mph before crashing off the Southern State Parkway, killing his four teenage passengers – all childhood friends from Queens.
“Those were his friends, you know, and I don’t think he’s thinking about anything else,” Aditia Beer said.
The jury did not reach a verdict on charges of aggravated vehicular manslaughter, or operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs.
Last week, the defense argued that as a habitual pot smoker Beer was not impaired, and that the crash was an accident caused by speeding.
The defense called an expert witness from Yale University who testified that “chronic” marijuana users like Beer are not affected by the drug in the same way that occasional smokers are.
The defense said THC in the blood is not a good measure of being high, among chronic users.
Following the verdict, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rive pleaded for clearer marijuana laws.
“We just need Albany to act, and we won’t be discussing this anywhere, because it will be on an equal par with intoxication by alcohol,” Rice said.
Meanwhile, Bryant Barr, the stepfather of one of the victims, delivered an unsparing assessment of the driver who has been convicted in the death of his son, calling Beer “a young man that expresses no guilt or sorrow.”
“Joseph is the type of person that will come to a funeral after he was told not to come, he would show up there anyway, very cocky. Joseph will take pictures at a funeral, smiling, and will post it on Facebook,” Bryant said.
Beer’s defense attorney, Todd Greenberg, acknowledged the heartbreak. But he said he will argue for a reduced sentence.
“He was 17 years old when this happened, and that makes him eligible for youthful offender treatment,” Greenberg said.
As it stands for now because of the partial verdict, Joseph Beer is looking at 5 to 15 years in prison on the manslaughter convictions. He could have faced 25 years in prison if he had been convicted on the aggravated vehicular manslaughter charge.
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