It took a Queens jury about three hours Tuesday to convict a Hempstead woman of aggravated manslaughter for striking and killing 43-year-old NYPD officer Anastasios Tsakos during a crash as he manned a police roadblock at Exit 26 on the Long Island Expressway in Queens in 2021.
There was a gasp in the courtroom of Queens State Supreme Court Judge Michael Aloise as the jury forewoman announced shortly after 2:30 p.m. that the panel of 10 women and two men found Jessica Beauvais, 34, guilty of the most serious charge of second-degree aggravated manslaughter.
Aloise had finished charging the jury just before 11 a.m. and, aside from one note asking for clarification on the top charge, the jury deliberated through lunch. At about 2:15 p.m. a note arrived indicating that the panel had reached a verdict.
Beauvais showed no reaction as the jury also found her guilty of the charges of vehicular manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident. Police tests showed that Beauvais had twice the legal limit of alcohol in the blood and had a cup of wine and some marijuana in her car when arrested, prosecutors had argued.
Tsakos’s widow, Irene, had tears in her eyes as she rose from her seat after jurors delivered the verdict and embraced Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz, whose office prosecuted the case.
Irene Tsakos then walked over the assistant district attorneys Gregory Lasak Jr. and Danielle O’Boyle and embraced them both in a big hug. She then left the court accompanied by NYPD off-duty highway officers and didn’t comment.
The verdict came after the widow testified about the last moments she spent alone with her husband as his broken body — he had a severed lower left leg and multiple injuries from the crash — lay under sheet in a hospital room.
Defense attorneys Jorge Santos and Peter Laumann of the Legal Aid Society, who had tried to defend Beauvais by claiming she didn’t see Tsakos just before her Volkswagen sedan plowed into him, declined to comment. A few people believed to be relatives of Beauvais also left the courtroom without commenting.
Katz said that the lesson of the case was not to drink and drive.
“Her license had been suspended, her blood alcohol level was at nearly twice the legal limit and she had smoked marijuana," Katz in a prepared statement after the verdict.
"The defendant had absolutely no business being behind the wheel. Her selfish decision-making and recklessness led to a horrific, senseless tragedy that left Detective Tsakos’ widow to raise their two young children without their father."
Prosecutors said that Beauvais faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the aggravated manslaughter charge when she is sentenced on Dec. 14. She has been in custody since her arrest in April 2021.
Outside the courthouse, Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Hendry, flanked by dozens of NYPD highway officers, said the verdict was a relief but not a cause for celebration.
“Today, our hero officer is still not coming back, we are not going to celebrate,” said Hendry.
On Monday, Irene Tsakos recalled in a voice at times barely audible how she was awakened by two officers early on the morning of April 27, 2021, and rushed to NewYork Presbyterian-Queens, where she was told her husband, a highway officer and the father of the couple's two children, had been killed.
"I put my head against him and I called him. I called for him. I prayed to God to make me wake up from this nightmare I was living,” she said from the stand, weeping.
Santos gave a summation to the jury in which he conceded that Beauvais was without question guilty of the charges of vehicular manslaughter, drunken driving and leaving the scene of an accident.
But Santos then told the panel that the prosecution had failed to prove the charge of aggravated manslaughter because Beauvais did not see Tsakos standing against his police vehicle just before impact. Santos said that Tsakos and his partner didn’t use proper procedure by going without reflective vests and failing to light highway flares to augment traffic cones set up before the exit. To find for aggravated manslaughter, the jury must determine that reckless conduct killed the cop and Beauvais knew, or should have known, he was a police officer.
“I submit to you that she [Beauvais] did not see Officer Tsakos,” Santos said in his 45-minute summation.
Lasak in his closing arguments told the jury 131 other cars saw the police that morning, obeyed the roadblock and got off at the exit service road before Beauvais sped into Tsakos and sent him catapulting 171 feet down the expressway.
Those other drivers, Lasak said, "knew to get off the highway."
Jurors weren’t available for comment after the verdict.
Tsakos was promoted posthumously to the rank of detective after his funeral in May 2021.
On Tuesday, no one answered the door at the Tsakos home on a quiet East Northport street with blue ribbons tied to down of the lamp posts.
With Nicholas Spangler