After an extensive investigation by the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office and the Town of Yorktown Police Department, Brett Nelson, an 18 year old man from Yorktown Heights, has been indicted by a Westchester County grand jury for criminally negligent homicide in the death of Randy Zapakin, a 57 year old married father of three. The motor vehicle crash occurred on November 8, 2012 while Mr. Zapakin was walking his dog near his home on Farm Walk Road in Yorktown. Mr. Nelson was driving a 2002 Chevrolet Cavalier with two friends in the vehicle. The vehicle operated by Nelson allegedly struck Mr. Zapakin, veered off the roadway, and continued for approximately 100 feet before striking a tree.
When the police arrived at the scene, they allegedly smelled marijuana in the vehicle, and found the drug in the car and a marijuana pipe near the point of impact. The accident was reported by a neighbor of Mr. Zapakin when the vehicle came to rest on her lawn. Purportedly, blood tests tested positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Mr. Nelson has been charged with criminally negligent homicide, a felony under the Penal Law, the misdemeanor of reckless driving, the violation of unlawful possession of marijuana, and traffic infractions including driving left of the center line and failure to exercise due care.
In order to be found guilty of criminally negligent homicide, a person must be found to have driven recklessly, disregarding the known risks of his or her recklessness, resulting in the death of another person. Many people believe erroneously that this charge only arises when a driver is intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. However, it can also be charged if the driver is texting or otherwise disregarding the serious risks of driving without paying attention to the road in front of him or her. One of the issues in this case will be whether Mr. Nelson is offered a plea by the District Attorney’s Office to a reduced charge. Generally, if the defendant does not have a criminal record, a plea would be offered. Due to Mr. Nelson’s young age, and assuming that he has no previous criminal background, I would anticipate that the D.A.’s office will make an offer in an effort to obtain a guilty plea in exchange for a limitation on the jail time which Mr. Nelson will serve. Of course, the D.A. will take into account the wishes of Mr. Zapakin’s family, but the reality is that it is unlikely that this case will reach a trial, as Mr. Nelson would face the grim reality of autopsy photos and grieving family members.
Mr. Nelson was released on $25,000 bail. He is due back in Court on May 28, 2013. If convicted on the criminally negligent homicide charge, Mr. Nelson faces up to four years in prison.