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Jury gets fatal crash case after closing arguments

Asya Ulmer, 21, Rockville Centre, faces charges of

Asya Ulmer, 21, Rockville Centre, faces charges of second-degree vehicular manslaughter and driving while intoxicated. Nassau County police said Ulmer was driving a 2000 BMW north on North Centre Avenue in Rockville Centre about 5:50 a.m. on Sept. 16, 2013 when she hit a tractor trailer parked near Meehan Lane. The impact killed her passenger, Jennifer Alexis, 21, of Bayside, Queens, police said. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

A Queens woman riding in her friend's car grabbed the steering wheel, causing the 2013 crash in Rockville Centre that killed her, a defense lawyer argued Tuesday at the driver's manslaughter trial.

But a Nassau prosecutor put the blame on defendant Asya Ulmer in his closing argument, saying she chose to drive drunk and was responsible for the "devastating consequences" of a wreck that killed a woman she'd called her best friend.

Ulmer, 23, of Rockville Centre, is on trial for allegedly causing the death of Jennifer Alexis, 21, of Bayside in the crash. Alexis was the only passenger in the BMW that Ulmer was driving when the car crashed into the back of an illegally parked tractor trailer. The two had just gotten off a train after a night out at a Manhattan nightclub.

In testimony last week, Ulmer told jurors she was "fine," and not drunk at the time of the crash. She said Alexis was drunk and loud when they got off a train early in the morning of Sept. 15, 2013, and demanded to go to a bank after Ulmer got behind the wheel to drive them home. "She kept grabbing my arm and grabbing the wheel," Ulmer said.

The defendant said she told Alexis to stop, grabbed her arm, and tried to straighten out the wheel as the car moved to the right. But Ulmer said the crash happened in "a matter of seconds."

Assistant District Attorney Gene Kang said Tuesday that tests showed Ulmer had a blood-alcohol level nearly two times the legal limit, and a video of the crash showed she never swerved before impact.

"She doesn't get a pass because she didn't mean to kill someone," he said.

However, Ulmer's attorney, Frederick Brewington of Hempstead, said it wasn't foreseeable that Alexis would grab the wheel, and "without that, there wouldn't be an accident." He also said the position of Alexis' arm in a post-crash photo showed she had stretched it out to get Ulmer to turn the car.

Brewington also attacked the results of blood-alcohol tests, saying there were problems with a testing device, that authorities waited too long to test the samples, and that the chain of custody for the samples wasn't properly documented.

The attorney also said a video from the scene showed Ulmer wasn't staggering, despite wearing 5-inch pumps, as police put her through tests for intoxication on an uneven ground. "There is reasonable doubt in this case all the way around," he said.

But Kang said Alexis died of blunt force trauma to her head and if she'd been grabbing for the steering wheel, she would have had injuries consistent with that action.

The prosecutor said the testing on Ulmer's blood was executed properly and that each sample was tested twice, with one draw showing a blood-alcohol content of 0.15 percent and a later draw showing a result of 0.12 percent. Jury deliberations continue Wednesday.

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