One of two people who caused the crash that killed Yisroel Levin and his kallah Elisheva Kaplan last year, two months before they were to have been married, was convicted of charges including criminally negligent homicide and assault, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced Tuesday.
The jury deliberated for three days, following a three-week trial, before convicting Rahmel Watkins, 36, of Brooklyn, of two counts of criminally negligent homicide; four counts of second-degree assault; second-degree reckless endangerment; and reckless driving. He was acquitted of the most serious charges, two counts of second-degree manslaughter.
According to prosecutors, Watkins and Zakiyyah Steward were part of a group of cars traveling in the northbound lanes of the Nassau Expressway in Inwood, from Far Rockaway to a Queens casino, at 1:40 a.m. on April 4, 2018, Chol Hamoed Pesach. Watkins was driving recklessly and more than double the speed limit when his car crossed over the double yellow lines and struck, head-on, a vehicle being driven by Levin, 21, with Kaplan, 20, in the passenger seat. Their vehicle burst into flames.
Watkins then struck a different car, fracturing that driver’s spine and injuring his hand, ankle and knee.
Steward was driving another car, next to Watkins’, at a high rate of speed and while intoxicated and impaired by marijuana. Her vehicle also struck the car carrying the chassan and kallah.
Watkins and Steward suffered minor injuries in the crash.
Watkins will be sentenced November 1. As a repeat violent felony offender, he faces up to life in prison.
Steward has pleaded guilty to the full indictment, including multiple charges of manslaughter, assault, vehicular manslaughter, aggravated vehicular homicide, reckless driving and reckless endangerment. She is expected to be sentenced on October 7 to three to nine years in prison.
“A young couple was tragically killed because Rahmel Watkins chose to drive recklessly at speeds of 100 miles an hour,” DA Singas said following Tuesday’s conviction. “While this defendant is going to spend many years behind bars, the Levin and Kaplan families will have to spend the rest of their lives without Yisroel and Elisheva. May their memories be a blessing.”