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Mar 13, 2018 3:35 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Trial Of Man Involved In Fatal Hill Street Crash Set To Begin Wednesday

Jacob Alegria of Southampton faces a manslaughter charge after prosecutors said that he recklessly caused the death of a passenger in another vehicle when he crashed head-on into it at a high rate of speed on Hill Street in Southampton Village on February 1, 2017.
Mar 14, 2018 10:31 AM

The trial of a 28-year-old Southampton man who prosecutors say caused the death of a passenger in another vehicle while speeding and driving recklessly on Hill Street in Southampton Village last year began on Wednesday, March 14, in Central Islip.

Jacob Alegria was charged with manslaughter and second-degree assault, both felonies, along with reckless endangerment and reckless driving, both misdemeanors. He faces up to 15 years in a state prison if convicted on the charges, to which he pleaded not guilty in April 2017.

At the time of Mr. Alegria’s arraignment, prosecutors said investigators had 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. on February 1, 2017. 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 very high 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, 27, of Southampton, was thrown nearly 30 yards by the impact, despite the fact that she said she was wearing a seat belt. When emergency crews arrived, Ms. Keszler was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital and treated for serious 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 then-9-month-old daughter just before the accident.

Colin Astarita, the Southampton attorney who is representing Mr. Alegria in court, said he is basing his defense on evidence that Mr. Alegria suffered a seizure just before the accident.

“The case boils down to whether or not he was having a seizure,” Mr. Astarita said. “We have no doubt that he did.”

During the trial, he said, nearly 66 pieces of evidence will be introduced, including autopsy photos, testimony from witnesses and testimony from a neurosurgeon.

Mr. Alegria is also expected to take the stand on March 22 or March 23, he added.

Mr. Astarita noted last week that the trial will not be in front of a jury. Instead, it will be a bench trial in front of State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho in Suffolk County 1st District Court.

The attorney said that in trials where emotions can run high, it is sometimes better to leave the decision up to a judge instead of to a jury, which may be swayed by emotions instead of facts. He added that Justice Camacho is an “extremely fair and knowledgeable” judge, and he believes it is the right decision to rely on his judgment in the case.

The trial is expected to continue through next week.

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