Published November 16, 2012
MINEOLA, N.Y. – A teenager who tested positive for marijuana was arrested Friday in the death of four of his friends in a Long Island car crash after felony charges in an indictment were unsealed, a prosecutor said.
Joseph Beer, 17, of Queens, pleaded not guilty in state court to charges stemming from the crash last month on the Southern State Parkway. Bail was set at $2 million.
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said multiple felonies were brought after an analysis of a blood sample taken from Beer two hours after the crash tested positive for marijuana. He was indicted on aggravated vehicular homicide, second-degree manslaughter and other charges that could carry a 25-year prison sentence upon conviction.
"The sheer magnitude of this tragedy is unthinkable, and it could have easily been avoided if this defendant had simply made the right choice to drive sober and drive safely," Rice said. "Instead, we have four promising young lives cut short, another young man facing years in prison, and families that will forever be torn apart by this horrific crash."
Beer's lawyer, Todd Greenburg, said his client was involved in a tragic accident and will fight the charges. He said Beer's parents could not afford the $1 million in cash that must be posted to support a $2 million bond.
Rice said Beer was driving more than 110 mph at 3:35 a.m. on Oct. 8 when he lost control of his car, crashing into trees in West Hempstead. The crash, which ripped the vehicle in half, killed three 18-year-olds and a 17-year-old, all from Queens, where they had attended the same high school as Beer.
Prosecutors said Beer, who suffered minor injuries, had only a learner's permit and was not permitted to be driving between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. His parents were charged with unlicensed operation of a vehicle for letting their son drive without a license, a charge punishable by up to 15 days in jail and a $300 fine.