As Corey Howell clung to the hood of a speeding car in Great Neck last August, driver Christian Arevalo tried to launch him from the vehicle by zigzagging through village streets at up to 60 mph, Nassau prosecutors said Tuesday.
Howell suffered head, neck and spine injuries when he was thrown from the vehicle. He was pronounced dead at a hospital a few hours later.
In a Nassau courtroom Wednesday, Arevalo, 19, also of Great Neck, pleaded not guilty to multiple charges in connection with Howell’s death following an argument between the two men that quickly escalated, police said at the time.
“It is incomprehensible that anyone would drive for more than a mile and at 60 miles per hour with a person on the hood of the car,” Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement. “This alleged driving was depraved and senselessly took the life of a 20-year old young man.”
After the hearing, the defendant’s attorney, Brian Griffin of Garden City accused prosecutors of withholding evidence until the just before the arraignment that supported his client’s account of the confrontation. Prosecutors denied withholding any evidence related to the case.
“He was the victim of a vicious attack, both himself and his girlfriend, and the law justifies him leaving in self-defense and self-protection,” Griffin said after the hearing.
Arevalo was charged with manslaughter in August, but an additional investigation led a grand jury to upgrade the charge in an indictment handed down Nov. 20.
Prosecutor Katie Zizza told Judge Teresa K. Corrigan that Arevalo drove for more than a mile — hitting speeds of up to 60 mph in a 2013 Nissan Altima — as he made his way on Northern Boulevard and nearby side streets on Aug. 11 in an attempt to throw Howell from the car.
Griffin told reporters after the arraignment that Arevalo and his girlfriend had been attacked by a group that included Howell. He said prosecutors had “grossly overcharged” his client.
Prosecutors allege Arevalo drove his car toward Howell during an argument at about 8:40 p.m. in Great Neck. Howell jumped on the hood of the Altima in order to avoid being hit, prosecutors said. Griffin disputed the prosecution’s account, saying Howell jumped on the hood so he could break the windshield and continue his attack on Arevalo.
When the vehicle reached Cumberland Avenue, with Howell’s brother Christopher Howell following behind in the 2017 Cadillac, Arevalo hit the brakes hard, officials said. The Cadillac then hit the Altima, sending the car into a driveway, striking a curb and launching Howell onto the sidewalk.
Griffin told Corrigan that prosecutors had presented evidence, including accounts of five police officers who investigated the incident, that was favorable to his client before Wednesday’s arraignment. The judge said she would review the grand jury minutes and the evidence before Arevalo returns to court on Jan. 9.
“It is very rare indeed that on the day of your arraignment the DA’s office gives you significant favorable material evidence that supports your client’s case,” Griffin said.
Singas’ office disputed Griffin’s allegation that prosecutors had withheld evidence.
“We provided more information than is required by law in an effort to ensure there is a fair prosecution of the defendant,” spokesman Brendan Brosh said. “The grand jury’s indictment refutes any accusation about the level of the charges or the character of the evidence.”
Arevalo faces charges of second-degree manslaughter, second-degree vehicular manslaughter and reckless endangerment. Prosecutors have also charged him with operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs and driving while ability impaired, both misdemeanors.
He faces up to 25 years-to-life in prison, Singas said in a statement.
Howell’s mother said she attended the hearing Wednesday so she could learn more about the man accused of killing her son, the eighth of her nine children.
“I cry every day,” she said. “I can’t stop crying. I am so depressed.”