In a hushed Queens courtroom, the widow of NYPD Det. Anastasios Tsakos told jurors Monday about the final, heart-wrenching private moment she had with her husband after he was run down by an alleged drunken driver in 2021 on the LIE.
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 asked to be alone,” Tsakos said as she wept on the witness stand. “I touched him. Nothing felt familiar. I touched his head, his forehead. I couldn’t lower the sheet. 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.”
Her brief testimony capped an emotional day in the trial of Jessica Beauvais, 34, of Hempstead, who is charged with second-degree aggravated manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, drunken driving and other crimes stemming from the crash in which Tsakos, 43, of East Northport, was killed instantly as he manned a police roadblock at eastbound Exit 26 on the Long Island Expressway in Queens.
Irene Tsakos testified as part of a procedure sometimes seen in homicide cases in which a loved one recalls knowing the victim while alive and then seeing them dead. The emotional impact of such testimony can be powerful, said one veteran defense attorney not involved in the case, even if juries are told to put aside emotion.
After she testified, defense attorney Jorge Santos of the Legal Aid Society 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.
“Proven,” Santos admitted to the jury of 11 women and one man.
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.
The aggravated manslaughter charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years while vehicular manslaughter has a maximum of seven years, according to state laws.
In his summation, assistant district attorney Gregory Lasak Jr. responded to Santos by deriding the notion that Beauvais didn’t know Tsakos was standing by his vehicle at the roadblock. Specifically, Lasak 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."
He also noted that during her questioning by police after the accident, Beauvais said she wasn’t paying attention.
“She drove through the roadblock, that is textbook reckless,” Lasak told the jury.
Outside court, Police Benevolent Association president Patrick Hendry said that Beauvais made a series of poor choices and criticized the defense for trying to shift some responsibility to Tsakos.
“That is silly, that is reaching for straws,” Hendry said. “She got into that car after drinking … driving at a high rate of speed.”
Police tests showed that Beauvais had a blood-alcohol content nearly twice the legal limit of .08 in New York State two hours after the crash and had marijuana in her crashed Volkswagen sedan.
Judge Michael Aloise is scheduled to charge the jury Tuesday and allow the panel to begin deliberations.