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Long IslandCrime

Attorney: Kayla Gerdes' passenger glad she's taken responsibility

Kayla Gerdes is brought out of Nassau County

Kayla Gerdes is brought out of Nassau County police headquarters to be arraigned on Wednesday in Mineola. Police said she was driving while ability impaired by drugs when the van she was driving struck and killed a woman outside her Hempstead home. (April 21, 2010) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

An attorney for the roofer who let a teenager police say was stoned drive his van, hitting and killing a woman, said Saturday his client is "grateful" that the teen "has accepted responsibility for her actions."

Police have said that the department and the district attorney's office may criminally charge the roofer, Brian Steele of Oceanside, for letting the teen, Kayla Gerdes, 18, drive while she was allegedly high on painkillers. She also was unlicensed.

The April 20 crash killed Rebecca Twine, 69, who was gardening outside her Hempstead home when the van jumped the curb and ran her over. Police said that Steele had been driving, but Gerdes asked to take over because she thought Steele was driving too slowly.

Asked about the possibility of criminal charges against his client, Steele's lawyer, Michael DerGarabedian, said: "If her parents can't be responsible for her, how can a 29-year-old kid who just met her a short period before be responsible for her?"

Gerdes told reporters that she'd taken drugs before the crash; police say the drug she took was the prescription painkiller oxycodone.

Police have said Steele, 29, is cooperating with detectives.

DerGarabedian denied reports that Gerdes was Steele's employee, but said the duo had an "intimate relationship."

Her attorney, John Lewis, has blamed inexperienced driving and a mix-up over the van's pedal and brake.

Lewis has said his client, who is jailed on $200,000 bond or $100,000 cash bail, is a drug addict who needs treatment and whose parents were struggling to get her help.

"Mr. Steele is also grateful the operator of the car, Kayla Gerdes, and her attorney, by virtue of both their many statements released to the press earlier this week, has accepted responsibility for her actions. Mr. Steele hopes that Ms. Gerdes gets the help that her attorney claims she desperately needs to become a productive member of society," said DerGarabedian, of Rockville Centre.

Lewis did not return a call for comment Saturday night.

Twine's son Chauncey has said he wants Steele to face criminal charges for letting Gerdes drive.

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