Thursday, June 4, 2009

Forest Hills Teen Sentenced in Fatal Wreck

Kew Gardens Couple Killed on GCP Service Road

By Conor Greene

A Forest Hills teenager has been sentenced to prison for causing a fatal accident after speeding through a red light while under the influence of painkillers last August on the Grand Central Parkway service road.

Jacob Chubalashvili, who was 17 years old at the time of the accident near 69th Road, will serve between two-and-a-half and seven-and-a-half years in prison under an agreement with the Queens District Attorney’s office.

Chubalashvili, of 62nd Drive, was driving about 60 miles per hour while heading east in a 30-mile-per-hour zone at about 5:30 that morning. Behind the wheel of a Mercedes he had taken without permission, the teenager sped through a steady red light and plowed into an Acura carrying Ki and Hyekyung Kim. The impact split the Acura in half and instantly killed the Kew Gardens couple.

After his arrest, Chubalashvili told police he took the car without permission from a family friend and smoked marijuana before driving. “I remember... jetting down the road and the next thing I remember is waking up in the hospital” he said, according to the DA’s office. The DA also said he later admitted to taking about a dozen pain pills and asked, “How is the Mercedes? That was supposed to be my car” after being told two people had died.

On Tuesday, Chubalashvili’s attorney, Leonard Ressler, said the plea was reached after tests showed that his client “wasn’t as bombed out as police initially said he was.” Ressler said the only drugs that showed up Chubalashvili’s system were the painkillers, which he took to ease pain from dental work.

“The reason he took the plea is because they weren’t prescribed... Nothing [else] showed up, none of the stuff they said at arraignment,” said Ressler. “In all likelihood he passed out,” which is one of the side affects of the pills Chubalashvili took, the attorney added. “Apparently when you get hit in the head, you think of things that don’t exist,” he said when asked about his client’s comments to investigators.

If convicted at trial, Chubalashvili would have faced up to 15 years in prison. According to his attorney, he is unlikely to be paroled until he has served at least two-thirds of the sentence, at which point he will be eligible for early release for good behavior. “Based on past history [in New York State], it doesn’t bode well unless there is a major change,” said Ressler, noting that the current parole board rarely paroles individuals convicted of violent crimes.

The DA’s spokeswoman pointed out that Chubalashvili pleaded guilty to the top charge against him. “If he would have went to trial and if he was convicted of the same [charge], the sentencing guideline is five to 15 years,” she said.

Hyekyung Kim was a supervisor at the city Administration for Children‘s Services and the couple was on their way to work at the time of the accident. Ressler said his client has “always been remorseful” since causing the accident. “It’s tragedy for everyone - his life’s screwed up and they’re dead. It’s a mess,” he said.

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