A Southampton man faces a manslaughter charge after prosecutors said Wednesday that he recklessly caused the death of a passenger in another vehicle when he crashed into it head-on at a high rate of speed on Hill Street in Southampton Village on February 1.
Jacob Alegria, 27, of Southampton was arraigned on Wednesday after a grand jury handed up an indictment also charging him with assault in the second degree, reckless endangerment and reckless driving. Mr. Alegria, who is represented by Southampton attorney Colin Astarita, entered a plea of not guilty. He faces up to 15 years in state prison on the most serious charge if convicted.
Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas J. Spota said this week that investigators served a search warrant and obtained the “black box” from the 2008 Lexus R35 that Mr. Alegria was driving at the time of the crash, which took place at about 3:30 p.m. That device, which records various conditions at the time of an accident, showed that his vehicle was traveling 78.3 mph at the time of impact—in a 25-mph zone along residential Hill Street in the village.
Witnesses said Mr. Alegria was passing slower vehicles in the oncoming lane while westbound on Hill Street that afternoon at a high rate of speed, and was in the oncoming lane when his vehicle crashed into another car that had just turned east onto the road. The driver of the vehicle, Luisa “Lulu” S. Keszler, 26, of Southampton, was thrown nearly 30 yards by the impact. She was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital and is still recovering from her injuries.
The crash killed 20-year-old Charlotte Meyer of Germany, who was a passenger in Ms. Keszler’s vehicle. Ms. Meyer had arrived in the United States to work as an au pair for Ms. Keszler’s 9-month-old daughter just days before the accident.
“He was in a real, real hurry, and he just didn’t care. It was reckless,” Mr. Spota said. “He very, very clearly just didn’t care … It clearly was a reckless act.”
Mr. Alegria turned himself in to Southampton Village Police as planned on Wednesday morning. He was brought into the courtroom at Central Islip in handcuffs. His family was in the courtroom for his arraignment. His attorney, Mr. Astarita, said he was prepared to post $200,000 bond afterward, as set by State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho. He is expected to be back in court in May.
A grand jury reviewed the case in February and March before handing up the felony count of manslaughter, in connection with the death of Ms. Meyer, and assault, in connection with the injuries to Ms. Keszler, as well as misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment and reckless driving.
Mr. Astarita said last week that after Mr. Alegria went through a series of medical examinations following the crash, it was revealed that he has a significant cyst on his brain—which can, and has been, causing seizures. The attorney had previously suggested that a medical condition could be part of his client’s defense, and explanation for the crash.
But Mr. Spota said that any medical condition was beside the point and was not to blame for the crash. “We don’t subscribe to that theory at all,” he said.
Prosecutors pointed out in court Wednesday that witnesses told police Mr. Alegria had passed several cars and crossed into and out of the oncoming lane several times before the crash occurred, and in fact had earlier “very narrowly avoided a head-on collision,” according to Mr. Spota. “If you’re having a seizure, you don’t do that,” he added, noting the “incredibly high speed” at the time of the crash.
Prosecutors also noted in court that they obtained Mr. Alegria’s cellphone via search warrant and found text messages showing that he had attempted—apparently in vain—to purchase marijuana earlier in the day. Mr. Spota noted that blood tests showed he was not intoxicated at the time of the crash, but the tests showed low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical compound found in marijuana.
Mr. Spota, who called the fatal crash “a true tragedy,” said Mr. Alegria has been cooperative with the investigation “to a certain extent,” although he added that he offered “very minimal oral admissions.”