A teenager from New York City who killed four of his friends by crashing his car into a tree on the Southern State Parkway on Long Island confessed that he had been smoking marijuana and speeding prior to the car crash, reports Huffington Post.
Joseph Beer, who is now 19 but was 17 at the time of the deadly incident, pleaded guilty in July to aggravated vehicular homicide. He also reportedly pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of marijuana. Beer entered a guilty plea in order to keep the families of the victims from having to sit through a second trial after a jury deadlocked on the charge the first time around.
Beer’s attorney argued that smoking pot while driving is not the same as drinking alcohol before getting behind the wheel of a car and that police and prosecutors can’t accurately determine how much marijuana is dangerous.
An expert took the stand and testified that Beer, who reportedly smoked marijuana on a consistent basis, was likely not affected by it in the same way as an occasional user. Beer was reportedly driving faster than 100 mph at 4 a.m. on Columbus Day in 2012 when he hit a tree and killed the other passengers in his Subaru.
“We never denied that there was some responsibility,” said defense attorney Todd Greenberg. But he “always maintained that Joseph Beer was not impaired, and the impairment by marijuana did not cause this accident.”
At his trial, Beer reportedly apologized to the families of his friends. But the judge said he felt little remorse for Beer and chose not to consider him for a four-year-youthful-offender sentence, reports CBS New York. The teen will serve between five and 15 years.
“Whatever it is, it’s not going to bring back my son,” said Sharon Rajapa, the mother of one of the victims. “My son is already dead and that’s never going to change, whether he has 10 years, 15 years or 25 years.”