MINEOLA, N.Y. — A New York City teenager who admitted smoking marijuana and speeding before crashing into a tree in 2012, killing four of his friends, is due to be sentenced in a Long Island courtroom.
Joseph Beer, 19, of Queens, pleaded guilty in July to the top count of aggravated vehicular homicide in the fiery crash on the Southern State Parkway.
A month earlier, a jury had deadlocked on the charge, but Beer decided to plead guilty to spare the families of his friends who died the ordeal of a second trial, his attorney said.
Beer also pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of marijuana. Defense attorney Todd Greenberg has argued that unlike blood-alcohol standards for drunken driving, police and prosecutors have yet to develop a reliable measurement for impairment from marijuana.
An expert at the trial testified that because Beer was a chronic marijuana smoker, his body’s ability to process the active ingredient in marijuana may be different from someone who is an occasional user.
Nassau County Court Judge David Sullivan promised Beer he would receive no more than five to 15 years when he is sentenced, although Greenberg said he has requested that his client be granted youthful offender status because the accident happened when Beer was 17. If so, he could receive a sentence of four years.
Sullivan is expected to rule on the youthful offender request during the Aug. 2 hearing.