A Suffolk County criminal court judge has found a Southampton landscaper not guilty of manslaughter in a head-on crash last year that killed a woman from Germany and seriously injured another woman.
Jacob Alegria, 28, had argued that a medical condition that can cause brain seizures led him to drive more than three times the legal speed limit when he crashed Feb. 1, 2017, on Hill Street in Southampton.
State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho in Central Islip ruled Tuesday, after a nearly six-week bench trial, that while Alegria’s actions were reckless they may not have been voluntary.
Camacho found Alegria not guilty of second-degree manslaughter and second-degree assault, both felonies, and of reckless endangerment and reckless driving, misdemeanors.
Alegria was driving a Lexus SUV at more than 78 mph in a 25-mph zone when police said he twice crossed onto the wrong side of the two-lane road to pass slower cars.
Alegria hit an Audi Q5 driven by Luisa S. Keszler, 26, of Southampton, who suffered a fractured pelvis, collapsed lung and ruptured spleen, prosecutors said. Her passenger, Charlotte Meyer, 20, an au pair who had arrived in the United States less than 24 hours before the crash, was killed.
Defense attorney Colin Astarita of Southampton said Wednesday the crash was a tragic accident prompted by a “cavernous malformation,” or abnormal blood vessels, which had developed in Alegria’s front temporal lobe.
Astarita called a host of medical experts as witnesses to testify that Alegria probably had a seizure before the crash and was driving in a semiconscious, dreamlike state.
In an interview, Astarita said Alegria never hit the brakes and actually accelerated before impact, probably hitting speeds close to 100 mph on a road with a school and church that is carefully monitored by police.
“He was crushed by the accident,” Astarita said. “He would rather have crashed into a tree to avoid hitting anyone else. This is a burden he will have to carry for the rest of his life.”
A spokeswoman for District Attorney Timothy Sini did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Alegria is scheduled to have brain surgery in the coming months to remove the malformation and has voluntarily surrendered his driver’s license, Astarita said.