MINEOLA, N.Y. – Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced that two people have been arraigned on grand jury indictment charges for the fatal Inwood crash that killed a 21-year-old man and his 20-year-old fiancé in April.
Zakiyyah Steward, 25, Brooklyn was arraigned today before Judge Francis Ricigliano on charges of:
Three counts of Aggravated vehicular homicide (a B felony)
Four counts of Assault in the Second Degree (a D felony)
Vehicular Manslaughter in the first degree (a C felony)
Two counts of Vehicular manslaughter in the second degree (a D felony)
Operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol (an unclassified misdemeanor)
Operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs (an unclassified misdemeanor)
Driving while ability impaired by the combined influence of drugs or of alcohol and any drug or drugs (an unclassified misdemeanor)
Rahmel Watkins, 35, of Brooklyn was arraigned today before Judge Francis Ricigliano on charges of:
Bail was set at $1 million bond or $500,000 cash for Watkins and $500,000 bond or $250,000 cash for Steward. The defendants are due back in court July 18. If convicted of the top counts, Steward faces 8-1/3 to 25 years in prison and Watkins faces five to 15 years in prison.
“This indictment alleges that Yisroel and Elisheva's lives were stolen, just as their lives were about to begin as a married couple, by the defendants who recklessly drove too fast in bad weather and while one of them was intoxicated,” DA Singas said. “Nassau County will not tolerate this kind of unconscionable disregard for life. My heart goes out to the Levin and Kaplan families.”
DA Singas said that on April 4, 2018, at approximately 1:40 a.m., defendants Rahmel Watkins and Zakiyyah Steward were allegedly part of a group of cars traveling in the northbound lanes of the Nassau Expressway in Inwood from Far Rockaway to a Queens casino. Defendant Watkins was allegedly operating a 2010 BMW 550 GT recklessly and at a high rate of speed when his vehicle crossed over the double yellow lines and struck a 2017 Nissan Altima head-on being driven by 21-year-old, Yisroel Levin, with his 20-year-old fiancé, Elisheva Kaplan in the passenger seat. They were returning home from a Passover gathering and were to be married this month.
The Altima burst into flames, was pushed backward and continued to burn, killing Mr. Levin and Ms. Kaplan. Watkins then struck a silver Infiniti being driven by James Hamilton, fracturing his spine and causing injuries to his ankle and knee.
At the same time, Defendant Steward was allegedly driving a 2016 Hyundai Genesis next to Watkins while allegedly driving at a high rate of speed, while intoxicated and impaired by marijuana. Steward’s vehicle also struck Mr. Levin's Altima. The defendants suffered minor injuries in the crash.
Deputy Chief Michael Bushwack and Senior Assistant District Attorney Diana Hedayati of DA Singas’ Vehicular Crimes Bureau are prosecuting this case. Watkins is represented by Dennis O’Brien, Esq. and Steward is represented by the Legal Aid Society.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless found guilty.