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Former college basketball player Dana King Jr. sentenced to prison in fatal crash

Former Nassau Community College basketball player Dana King

Former Nassau Community College basketball player Dana King Jr., in Mineola in 2019. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A Nassau judge sentenced a former college basketball player to prison Wednesday for causing a deadly wreck by chasing a car his ex-girlfriend was riding in.

Prosecutors said Dana King Jr., 24, couldn't accept their breakup and now will serve a sentence of 5 to 12 years behind bars.

The Valley Stream resident played basketball for Nassau Community College from 2016 to 2018 and had been due to graduate shortly after his 2019 indictment. In November, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter and assault.

The crash just after midnight on March 19, 2019, left driver Jim Hayes Jr., 22, of Hempstead, dead at the scene after a five-mile chase that started in Valley Stream. Authorities said the crash also left Hayes’ passenger, Isabel Rodriguez, then 21, of Valley Stream, with a broken back and broken arm.

King’s obsession with Rodriguez "went from stalking to a maniacal high-speed car chase in a matter of minutes," Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement Wednesday.

"This is not a case of ‘love sickness.’ This is a case of a defendant’s need to criminally control another person’s life, and Dana King senselessly killed a 22-year-old father in the process," she added.

King tailed Hayes’ 2007 BMW in his 2009 Audi after Hayes picked up Rodriguez at her home, according to authorities. The chase ended after the Audi rear-ended the BMW, sending the BMW airborne before it crashed into a tree.

The wreck left Hayes’ two daughters, then an infant and 2 years old, to grow up fatherless, his family said.

Court records show King changed his story about what led up to the wreck while talking to police in the aftermath. He also told them: "I messed up. I’m a good kid."

Prosecutor Katie Zizza read victim impact statements from the Hayes family and Rodriguez during Wednesday’s hybrid proceeding, with some participants appearing in Nassau County Court and others taking part by video conference.

Hayes’ family said King had robbed the father of two of a future that would have included the opening of his car repair shop, his sisters’ weddings and watching his daughters grow up.

"We hope that a day doesn’t pass in your life that you are not haunted by your choice that destroyed our lives forever," their statement said.

Rodriguez’s statement talked about having to cope with metal implants in her body, the stress of hospital bills and physical pain that hasn’t stopped.

"He has scarred me indefinitely … How could someone who ‘loved me so much’ do this?" she said of King.

King told acting State Supreme Court Justice Francis Ricigliano, with his voice muffled by a face mask, that he never meant to hurt anyone and took responsibility for the result. He then asked for forgiveness from Rodriguez and Hayes’ relatives, saying he didn’t want them to carry around a burden of resentment.

"I’ve brought enough pain and anger to your lives. And I’m truly, truly sorry," King added.

His lawyer, Michael DerGarabedian, said later that his client’s apology showed his true character. "He was a star student athlete who made a very poor decision and will regret it for the rest of his life," he added.

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