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Coram man sentenced in DWI crash that killed friend

Stephan Harbison, 29, of Coram, stands at his

Stephan Harbison, 29, of Coram, stands at his sentencing at Suffolk County Court in Central Islip on Wednesday, March 15, 2017. Harbison was sentenced to 3 to 6 years in prison for the 2015 death of passenger Hamzah Abdul-Hakim, who was killed when Harbison crashed his car while driving drunk. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

With obvious distaste for the defendant, a Suffolk judge sentenced a Coram man Wednesday to 3 to 6 years in prison for killing a friend while driving drunk.

But State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho told Stephan Harbison, 29, that he wished the evidence in the case had been strong enough to make a plea deal this lenient unnecessary. Harbison pleaded guilty in November to first-degree vehicular manslaughter and driving while intoxicated.

He admitted driving at high speed with a blood alcohol content of 0.15 percent — nearly twice the legal standard of 0.08 percent — when he crashed on Jan. 26, 2015 on Straight Path in Deer Park, killing a passenger, Hamzah Abdul-Hakim, 28, formerly of Wyandanch.

Because it was initially unclear which of the three men inside the car had been driving, Suffolk prosecutors offered the deal to Harbison to avoid bringing a case that was not a sure winner to trial. If convicted, Harbison faced a maximum of 7 1⁄2 to 15 years in prison.

Before imposing the sentence in Central Islip, Camacho listened to the victim’s sister, Tahirah Hakim of Wyandanch, describe the loss of her brother. She described him as a generous and loving man who recently had moved to Atlanta to give his daughters a better life.

“Death is certainly the destroyer of all pleasures,” she said. “He meant the world to us.”

She told Harbison, who delayed resolution of the case by changing attorneys repeatedly and refusing earlier plea offers, “I must say, you really didn’t make this process any easier. You have been salt to an open wound. … You’ve been very deceitful, very smug. Very shameful.”

When it was his turn to speak, Harbison initially asked for a two-week delay so he could complete some physical therapy in the Suffolk County jail, a request that Camacho denied. Harbison then apologized to Hakim.

“I’m truly, truly, truly sorry,” he said. “Hamzah was a like a brother to me. That day, I took a loss, too.”

Hakim said she’d never met or heard of Harbison.

“His memory is forever going to live with me,” Harbison told Hakim. “That’s my boy. That’s my bro. I wish the best for you guys, and for his kids.”

Camacho made it clear he was unimpressed.

“I think you are incapable of feeling remorse,” the judge said. “The sentence should be a lot more.”

Camacho noted that Harbison at one point contacted his insurance company to seek money as a result of the crash. “Shameless,” he said.

Afterward, defense attorney Craig McElwee of Hauppauge said his client “has gone through a growth process” that enabled him to take responsibility for a crash he doesn’t recall.

Like Camacho, the victim’s mother, Fatimah Hakim of Wyandanch, didn’t buy it.

“He’s still trying to deflect blame to someone else,” she said.

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