Joseph Beer jailed again in crash that killed 4 friends
A teenager accused of being high and causing the Lakeview crash that killed four of his friends was ordered back to jail Thursday after a prosecutor said he tested positive for marijuana again and showed "absolute utter disregard for the gravity of the situation."
Joseph Beer, 18, of South Richmond Hill, Queens, will be held without bail, Nassau County Judge David Ayres ruled. Beer had been in Nassau County jail on a $2 million bond since his arrest in November in connection with the Oct. 8 crash. He was released Jan. 15 on $250,000 bond after his lawyer appealed for a reduction.
Prosecutors have said Beer was high and speeding when he lost control of his 2-week-old 2012 Subaru Impreza in the 3:35 a.m. crash on the Southern State Parkway. The car slammed into trees off the parkway between exits 18 and 17.
The force of the impact split the sedan in two, and Beer's four passengers -- Darian Ramnarine, Christopher Khan and Peter Kanhai, all 18, and Neal Rajapa, 17, all from Queens -- were ejected. They were pronounced dead at the scene. A urine test Beer was required to take Jan. 18 showed that he had a substantial amount of marijuana in his system, prosecutor Michael Bushwack told the judge.
Bushwack also said State Police had recently discovered text messages on Beer's cellphone, written the day before the crash, that said, "I'm always high," "I love smoking weed," and "I smoke all day every day," among other things.
Bushwack said that because Beer is accused of being high at the time of the crash, his behavior showed that he is not taking his situation seriously. He said the texts not only prove Beer's history of marijuana use, but also that he was part of an "elaborate marijuana using, buying and dealing operation."
A text that Beer sent about a week before the crash described how he had walked, "with over $1,000 worth of weed through the streets in public," which Bushwack said was evidence that Beer was dealing, not just using marijuana. He has not been charged with selling marijuana.
Ayres said the positive drug test shows Beer was smoking marijuana either in jail, or in the first days after he was released.
"I find this revelation of marijuana use to be astonishing and breathtaking," Ayres told Beer before ordering him to jail.
Court officers stopped Beer's mother as she tried to approach her son after Ayres announced his decision. Instead, they handed her the winter jacket he'd brought to court, and led him away in handcuffs.
Beer's lawyer, Todd Greenberg of Forest Hills, Queens, said in court that, although he did not excuse Beer's drug use, it was well known that he had a drug problem when he was referred to the program that tested his urine -- a monitoring program for defendants suspected of having drug problems.
The fact that Beer has a drug problem, Greenberg said, is "the reason he was sent there. It should not cause the court to change his bail status."