Woman convicted in death of anti-MS-13 activist on Long Island gets 9 months

CENTRAL ISLIP, Long Island (WABC) -- The woman who ran over and killed an anti-gang activist whose daughter was murdered by MS-13 on Long Island was sentenced to nine months in prison Thursday.

Annmarie Drago was convicted of criminally negligent homicide, petit larceny, and criminal mischief in the September 2018 death of Evelyn Rodriguez, who was struck and killed while setting up a memorial in Brentwood to mark the second anniversary of her 16-year-old daughter Kayla Cuevas' murder.

Drago faced up to four year behind bars.

Rodriguez's partner Freddy Cuevas and daughter Kelsey Cuevas read victim impact statements.

"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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Drago's attorney, Stephen Kunken, said he is disappointed in the judge's decision.

"I think the pressure from the community for some type of retribution was very strong," he said.

Kunken said he had prepared Drago for the possibility that she may serve time in prison.

"I told her to expect the worst with regard to this, so she was ready for it," he said.

Due to prison COVID restrictions, Drago will spend the first 15 days of her sentence in 23-hour isolation in her cell.

Kunken said she had expressed remorse and sorrow to him since the beginning, though he advised her not to do that publicly. He said his client is a good mother and a good nurse who did not act recklessly and did not mean to hurt anyone.

He argued prison time would be harsh, requesting probation and community service, and read letters from community members and co-workers about Drago.

"Evelyn's death was needless," Judge Fernando Camacho said. "Ann Marie is responsible, and there needs to be consequences."

Kelsey Cuevas said she was OK with the nine-month sentence, which she considers "justice." Freddy Cuevas said he hoped for more prison time.

"We would have loved for it to be a harsher sentence," he said. "But unfortunately, this is the sentence that Judge Camacho felt was applicable."

Drago's attorney says he will be appealing and will ask Camacho to release Drago on bail while the appeal process is going.

A decision on that is expected early next week.

The deaths of 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."

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The entire incident was captured on video, which was shown to the jury.

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