A judge told a Brooklyn man his actions had been “inexcusable” as the motorist admitted Tuesday to killing his pregnant fiancee in a wrong-way crash on a Long Island Expressway exit ramp earlier this year while speeding away from police.
Courtney Corbett, 29, pleaded guilty in Nassau County Court to second-degree manslaughter and other charges that included assault, fleeing police, reckless endangerment and possessing forged credit cards and driver’s licenses.
“Not only did you endanger yourself and others but your reckless and criminal behavior resulted in the loss of your fiancée and your unborn child. Your behavior is inexcusable,” Acting State Supreme Court Justice Meryl Berkowitz told Corbett.
“ . . . Now she’s gone and you get to go to jail,” the judge added of crash victim Demytra Gibbs, who was six-months pregnant.
Authorities said Gibbs, 27, was riding in the front passenger seat of the Hyundai Sonata that Corbett was driving at high speed on June 18 in North Hills when the crash occurred.
Corbett was fleeing an officer pursuing the car in connection with a suspected shoplifting incident at Americana Mall in Manhasset when Corbett drove the wrong way on the LIE service road and then hit another car head-on, authorities said. Medical personnel weren’t able to save the couple’s unborn baby, in the crash’s aftermath.
Berkowitz told Corbett she planned to sentence him in January to 4 to 8 years in prison under his plea, a penalty the judge said she decided after an appeal for leniency from Gibbs’ mother.
Prosecutor Michael Bushwack had asked for a prison sentence of 6 to 12 years.
But the judge said she found it “compelling” that Gibbs’ mother paid Corbett’s $200,000 bond and made it known that she didn’t want him to go to jail.
“She believes in you and she believes that you shouldn’t be punished any more than you have already suffered,” Berkowitz added.
Police said the 44-year-old male driver of the Audi that Corbett’s car hit needed treatment for back pain after the crash. They said the crash also left Khadisah Green, then 23 and a passenger in the Sonata’s back seat, with neck and back injuries.
The events began at 3:37 p.m., when a security guard at the mall’s Sephora store called 911 and said two female shoplifting suspects had fled in a black Hyundai with a male behind the wheel, according to police.
Police said after the crash they believed Gibbs and Greene also presented fraudulent credit cards inside the shopping center while Corbett waited outside.
A Nassau County police officer tried to pull over the Hyundai after seeing it turn onto Shelter Rock Road, but Corbett sped away in a reckless manner, swerving around other vehicles while southbound, according to police.
Corbett then turned right — traveling west — into the eastbound lanes of the LIE service road, and the officer stopped pursuing the Hyundai after a chase of about 1 1⁄2 miles that ended on that road, police said.
The homicide squad’s commanding officer has said previously that the officer acted properly by discontinuing the pursuit when Corbett’s actions became dangerous.
From there, the Hyundai went the wrong way onto the LIE’s exit 35 off-ramp and crashed into the Audi, according to police.
Corbett, who police said worked as a New York City Housing Authority janitor, declined to comment while leaving court Tuesday, as did his Legal Aid Society attorney.
Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement it was “heartbreaking and incomprehensible that Demytra Gibbs and her unborn child were killed because this defendant drove like a madman to avoid shoplifting charges.”
The judge set sentencing for Jan. 3.