Woman convicted in death of anti-MS-13 activist free on bail pending appeal

ByEyewitness News via WABC logo
Friday, March 12, 2021
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The family of a Long Island anti-gang activist who was run over near her daughter's memorial is angry after a judge release her killer on bail pending an appeal.

CENTRAL ISLIP, Long Island (WABC) -- The family of a Long Island anti-gang activist who was run over near her daughter's memorial is angry after a judge release her killer on bail pending an appeal.

Annmarie Drago, 60, was convicted of criminally negligent homicide, petit larceny, and criminal mischief in the September 2018 death of Evelyn Rodriguez and was sentenced to nine months in prison.

Her lawyer said he was going to make a petition to have her released on bail while he appeals the sentence, and Drago was released Thursday on $50,000 bond.

"Now she gets to go home, her kids get to touch her, feel her, hug her," Rodriguez's daughter Kelsey Cuevas said. "What about me? I don't get that back..."I just feel like it's just a slap in the face to my mother."

Drago's attorney, Stephen Kunken, told Eyewitness News one of the reasons the judge let Drago out on bond is because an appeal can take one to two years -- much longer than her nine-month sentence.

Kunken said the judge also recognized that there should be a higher independent review of the facts of the case.

District Attorney Tim Sini said he is still confident in the outcome of the case.

"While we opposed the stay of sentence, we are confident that the defendant's conviction will ultimately be upheld and justice will be served," he said.

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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 in the memorial and then intentionally destroyed another part of it. She was reportedly trying to sell her mother's home, which is located near the memorial.

Rodriguez confronted Drago about it, which is when she was run over.

"The defendant saw Evelyn Rodriguez," prosecutor Maggie Bopp said. "The defendant heard Evelyn Rodriguez. And the defendant felt Evelyn Rodriguez as she knocked her down and ran her over."

News 12 Long Island reporter Eileen Lehpamer was there to cover the vigil and frantically called 911 after witnesses 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 said. "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. Drago faced up to four year behind bars.

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Rodriguez's partner, Freddy Cuevas, and Kelsey Cuevas read victim impact statements prior to the sentencing.

"You are a monster in my eyes and a greedy murderer," Cuevas said.

Drago also spoke, turning back to look at Kelsey throughout her statement.

"I will take my punishment," she said. "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."


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