CENTRAL ISLIP, Long Island (WABC) -- The conviction of a Patchogue nurse who killed anti-gang activist Evelyn Rodriguez by running her over at the same Brentwood scene where Rodriguez's daughter was murdered by MS-13 gang members was thrown out by a state appeals court Wednesday.
The court cited prosecutorial misconduct in tossing Annmarie Drago's convictions for criminally negligent homicide, petit larceny, and criminal mischief.
Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney put out a statement distancing himself from the 2020 prosecution, which was handled by former district attorney Timothy Sini.
"This trial took place before I took office as District Attorney," Tierney said. "The court's decision to reverse the trial verdict was based upon a finding of prosecutorial misconduct committed in the summation by the assigned prosecutor. That prosecutor, as well as those supervisors from the prior administration who oversaw the trial and reviewed those remarks prior to the summation, were not retained by me and are no longer with the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office. We respect the appellate court's decision and will, of course, abide by the ruling as we evaluate how best to proceed in light of this decision."
The deaths of 16-year-old Kayla Cuevas and her 15-year-old friend Nisa Mickens sparked Rodriguez into becoming a leading voice against street gangs.
Drago allegedly stole some items from the memorial and then intentionally destroyed another part of it, and Rodriguez confronted Drago about it, which is when she was run over.
News 12 Long Island reporter Eileen Lehpamer was there to cover the vigil and frantically called 911 after witnessing the incident.
"Evelyn Rodriguez was just run over," she can be heard screaming on the call.
The defense insisted that Drago was only trying to escape after Rodriguez and her companion flew into a rage.
"She is scared to death of these people and what they are going to do," defense attorney Stephen Kunken argued at the time. "There was only one way to escape from this onslaught. She did not intend to cause harm to anybody. It was a tragic accident...You either fight the situation or you try to get away from it. That's what she was trying to do."
The entire incident was captured on video, which was shown to the jury.
"I will take my punishment," Drago said after the verdict. "I hope it will help you in your healing process...There is not a day that I don't think of you girls and your loss as a result of my actions."