Ann Marie Drago arrives at court in Riverhead Thursday for the second...

Ann Marie Drago arrives at court in Riverhead Thursday for the second day of deliberations in her trial in the death of anti-gang activist Evelyn Rodriguez. Credit: Tom Lambui

The jury in the Ann Marie Drago trial is "solidly deadlocked" in deliberations over the top charge of criminally negligent homicide for the death of anti-gang activist Evelyn Rodriguez, jurors informed the court late Thursday afternoon.

While the jury said it has reached a verdict on misdemeanor charges of petit larceny and criminal mischief, they have yet to reach a consensus on the felony after more than 11½ hours of deliberation over two days.

State Supreme Court Justice Richard Ambro asked the jury of seven men and five women to return Friday, when he will further instruct them on how to proceed with deliberations.

The petit larceny and criminal mischief charges were for Drago dismantling a memorial Rodriguez had set up for her slain 16-year-old daughter, Kayla Cuevas, and placing some of the items in her car.

It was that act that led Rodriguez and husband, Freddy Cuevas, to confront Drago on Ray Court in Brentwood at 4 p.m. on Sept. 14, 2018. The memorial had been set up for a 6 p.m. vigil remembering Cuevas, whose body was found by Drago's mother in her backyard on that same Brentwood street two years earlier. 

The nearly two-week trial featured testimony from 14 prosecution witnesses, many of whom told the jury about memorials that had been set up in the time since the bodies of Cuevas and her friend Nisa Mickens, 15, murdered together by MS-13 gang members, were discovered.

A neighbor testified that Drago expressed frustration about the memorial when she cleaned it up on the day of the incident. The defense maintained Drago was simply cleaning up as she had with items left behind in the past.

In video captured by a News 12 crew, Rodriguez and Freddy Cuevas could be seen shouting expletives at Drago before she turned her wheel in the direction of Rodriguez and began to pull away.

The defense maintained that it was a step Rodriguez took to the left, just as Drago accelerated, that caused her foot to get stuck under the front driver's side tire. Former Chief Suffolk County Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Kaplan told the jury skull fractures and bruising of the brain from when Rodriguez's head struck the pavement caused her death.

Evelyn Rodriguez talks to the Brentwood School Board during a meeting...

Evelyn Rodriguez talks to the Brentwood School Board during a meeting in 2016. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Assistant Suffolk County District Attorney Laura Newcombe said during closing arguments Wednesday that even if Rodriguez had not taken the step forward she would have been struck by Drago’s vehicle, as she positioned herself in plain sight on the driver’s side, in the only direction Drago could travel to avoid hitting Rodriguez’s minivan as it blocked her vehicle.

Defense attorney Matthew Hereth of the Legal Aid Society of Suffolk County said attempting to drive away from the chaotic scene was the only reasonable action for his client to take, as Cuevas and Rodriguez continued to shout expletives at her. 

The trial is the second for Drago. Her previous conviction was overturned in July 2022, when a state appeals court ruled prosecutors made improper comments during her three-week trial before then-acting state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho.

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