NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York teenager was sentenced to five to 15 years in prison on Tuesday, a month after he admitted he had been high on marijuana when he smashed his car into a tree, killing four of his friends, said a spokesman for the Nassau County District Attorney.
Joseph Beer of the New York City borough of Queens, who was 17 at the time of the October 2012 crash on Long Island, pleaded guilty in July to aggravated vehicular homicide and operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs.
A jury in June found Beer, now 19, guilty of four counts of second-degree manslaughter, reckless endangerment and reckless driving.
He was driving 110 miles per hour (177 kph) when his car slammed into a tree alongside the Southern State Parkway at 3:35 a.m., said district attorney spokesman Paul Leonard.
Four of Beer’s teen friends were in the car with him and were killed in the accident.
Prosecutors asked Nassau County Court Judge David Sullivan to sentence Beer to five to 15 years, reading aloud a letter written by the uncle of one of the victims, Peter Kanhai, 18.
“You took someone away from us that we loved dearly and you tore a hole in our family that can never be mended,” Hermant Kanhai wrote.
The defense sought a shorter sentence because of Beer’s age at the time of the crash.
Immediately after his sentencing, Beer was taken into custody to begin serving his prison time, Leonard said.
Beer’s attorney, Todd Greenberg, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Bill Trott