Thursday, August 14, 2008

Unlicensed Teen Driver Admits to "Popping Pills" Before Fatal Wreck


By Conor Greene

The teenager arrested after a fatal car accident last week was “drugged out of his gourd” when he made incriminating statements to investigators in the hours after the wreck, said his lawyer after visiting him in the hospital.

Seventeen-year-old Jacob Chubalashvili is currently in the Rikers Island infirmary while awaiting his next appearance in Queens Criminal Court, scheduled for August 21. He is facing second-degree manslaughter charges after allegedly running a red light and slamming into a vehicle driven by a Kew Gardens husband and wife, who were killed instantly.

After the accident last Tuesday on the Grand Central Parkway service road, Chubalashvili told prosecutors that he smoked marijuana and was “speeding and popping pills” before running the red light and slamming into an Acura driven by Ki and Hyekung Kim, who were on their way to work.

“I just took the car, I didn’t have permission to take it,” the unlicensed teen told investigators, according to District Attorney Richard Brown. “I smoked some marijuana before I took the car... I remember taking the car, it’s a Mercedes and jetting down the road and the next thing I remember is waking up in the hospital.”

Later that evening, after being informed of the criminal charges, he allegedly said, “I was speeding and popping pills. I had about 12 pain pills. I was really f---ed up.”After being told that two people were dead, Chubalashvili said, “How is the Mercedes? That was supposed to be my car,” according to Brown.

On Tuesday, Chubalashvili attorney, Leonard Ressler questioned whether his client had actually made those statements. “I’m sure he made some of them, but he couldn’t have made the ‘how’s my car’ statements because it [didn’t belong to] a family member,” he said.

Ressler said his client was “drugged out of his gourd” and “severely injured” with a broken arm and head injuries. He is still awaiting reports regarding Chubalashvili, including the results of the toxicology tests taken after the accident and information regarding Chubalashvili medical history.

“Given his age, hopefully we’re going to be able to negotiate something,” said Ressler, adding that he doesn’t expect any movement on the case by the next court hearing. “We have to get the reports; apparently he has some issues.”

At the time of the accident, Chubalashvili had been sent to stay with a friend of his father’s because he was refusing to take his medication. He is accused of taking the family friend’s Mercedes without permission before driving around an SUV stopped at a red light and speeding through the intersection at 69th Road at more than 60 miles per hour.

Contrary to statements issued by the district attorney’s office, Ressler said Chubalashvili “acted shocked” when he told him two people were dead. “We’re talking about someone who had a head injury and was on drugs,” said Ressler. “I had trouble communicating with him, so I don’t know where they’re getting the whole issue of [lack of] remorse from. As far as I’m concerned, he has been medicated since the accident.”

Chubalashvili told his attorney he blacked out and “has no recollection of anything” before “waking up in the hospital,” said Ressler. He said the next step is to review the medical reports so that “the proper assessment [can be made] between someone who is a psycho driver and someone with other conditions.”

Ressler said the stretch of road where the accident occurred is especially dangerous. “Accord- ing to the neighbor, there is an accident a day there. They said they constantly hear the squealing of breaks. The foliage is overgrown, and in this case he went around an SUV so it was double blind.”

According to court papers, Chubalashvili was arrested twice in the three months before the accident. He was charged on March 18 along with Rabiyev Merikhay and Michael Sarikov with robbing two pre-teens of a cell phone at a Rego Park playground. The three friends then forced the youngsters to take them to their apartment and get $200 for them.

Following the robbery, Merikhay warned the victims, “If you do call the police, you are going to get a worse beating than you already got,” according to the criminal complaint. “Russians don’t cry, Russians get even,” added Sarkiov.

“The repercussions won’t end.” On July 16, Chubalashvili was arrested at the Roosevelt Avenue subway station after “doubling up through a turnstile with another person” instead of paying the fare.

While Ressler will likely seek a plea agreement with prosecutors in the manslaughter case, District Attorney Brown vowed in the days after the fatal accident that the case will be “vigorously prosecuted and should serve as a warning to those who would flout our traffic regulations and put others in danger.”

The district attorney’s office declined to comment on the chances the case will not go to trial.

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