A judge added four months of jail to a motorist’s five-year probation deal Thursday after agreeing that social media imagery showed the 23-year-old smoking marijuana after he pleaded guilty to causing a Hempstead pedestrian’s death while impaired by the drug.
The Nassau district attorney’s office had asked for the maximum sentence of 2-1/3 to 7 years in prison for Christopher Ebron after calling attention to the images following the Hempstead man’s June guilty plea but before his original sentencing date.
Prosecutor Diana Hedayati told Acting State Supreme Court Justice Terence Murphy in court again Thursday that a punishment of upstate prison time was warranted.
In early September, the judge had remanded Ebron to jail while saying he wasn’t yet prepared to stick to his original 5-year probation commitment with no time behind bars after the imagery surfaced on Instagram.
On Thursday, Murphy kept the probation deal but added the jail time for Ebron – who should go free sometime next month.
“Don’t mistake my leniency for weakness,” Murphy told the defendant, whom he urged to become productive and “live a law-abiding life.”
“People may say to this court: Judge, what are you doing? Probation? … Somebody was killed. Drugs were involved,” Murphy said.
But the judge added that his task was to look at the case “from the lens of the law.” He also told Ebron he’d go to prison if he violated probation and would “be watched like a hawk” until he proved “that the probationary sentence was the right sentence.”
Authorities had charged that on Jan. 10, 2017, Ebron was marijuana-impaired when he fatally hit Ana M. Neuman, 58, of Hempstead, as she tried to cross North Franklin Avenue in Hempstead.
Ebron’s attorney Anthony Grandinette had argued that Neuman crossed against the right of way, and told the judge Thursday that “the scales of justice fall heavily in favor of probation” for his client.
Neuman, whose family lives in El Salvador, had on dark clothing and a hood and started to cross against a traffic light without looking left or right, the judge noted Thursday. Murphy also said video showed Ebron was speeding, but that police saw no signs of drug impairment after the crash.
The judge added that while it was “uncontested” that Ebron had marijuana in his system, New York doesn’t have a “per se” standard that determines when the level of the drug in a driver’s blood becomes a crime.
Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement Thursday: “While we are grateful for the court’s imposition of jail time, this case remains a tragic reminder that drugged driving takes lives. Ms. Neuman came to the United States from El Salvador in search of a better life – but now her family will never get her back because of this defendant’s criminal decision to get behind the wheel while high.”