MINEOLA, N.Y. (PIX11) — At court in Nassau County on Monday, there was a massive show of support once again for two teenage victims of a car crash that police say was caused by a drunk driver.
Family members, friends, and supporters of 14-year-olds Drew Hassenbein and Ethan Falkowitz showed up at criminal court in such great numbers that a court officer had to get on a bullhorn and address a line of people a block long outside of the courthouse before court opened for a hearing in the drunk driving case.
“There is no more room in the courthouse,” he announced. “We are over capacity.”
The dozens of people on line outside of the courthouse was at least as large as the number of relatives and supporters of Falkowitz and Hassenbein inside the courthouse. Scores of them waited outside of the building’s largest courtroom before the hearing.
They’d come, they said, to bear witness as the man charged with killing the two best friends faced a judge for the second time in less than a week.
Amandeep Singh, 34, was driving the wrong way on Route 106 in Jericho last Wednesday night, according to investigators, and slammed his pickup truck into the sedan in which the two teens were passengers. Hassenbein and Falkowitz were talented tennis players, and were being driven home from a tennis event at the time of the crash.
Investigators said that Singh had a blood alcohol level of 0.18, more than twice the legal limit, on the night of the crash. He now faces a long list of felony charges, including aggravated vehicular homicide, vehicular manslaughter, manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident with a fatality, DWI, and assault.
Some of the victims’ family members and supporters said that they’d thought Singh was going to request bail at the Monday hearing, but his attorney, James Kousouris, said that they’d made such a request last week, at Singh’s first court appearance, and it had been denied.
Kousouris said that his client might file another bail request at a future hearing, but that for now, Singh and his family, who had also been at court on Monday, have a message that they want everyone to hear.
“My client and his family are devastated by this loss,” the lawyer said. “They have kids themselves. They understand the grief. They feel the grief themselves.”
As for the crash victims, their relatives, friends, and supporters said that their showing up at court in big numbers is part of their grieving process, as well as another process.
“To make sure that justice is done,” a supporter said, outside of court. “To get that, in this day and age,” he continued, “it requires a huge mass movement of people. So we want to make sure that they’re there.”
Meryl Waxman Ben-Levy is the president of the board of education in Roslyn, where the teens were enrolled in eighth grade. She was at court, and said that she was representing the students in the district, who are monitoring the case closely.
“Our children are questioning. They want to see justice served,” she said. “They know the rules, and they stick to the rules. There are consequences. They want to see justice as well.”
Like any homicide case, there will be dozens of court hearings as the case heads to trial. After Monday’s hearing, called a return conference, many of the victims’ supporters said that they have every intention of returning, also.
“Drunk driving has to be stopped. This is just a terrible thing,” said Brian Meyerson, a trustee of the Village of East Hills, outside of the courtroom. “We are one big community, and this is where we are going to be.”
Another supporter, Rabbi Michael White, said, “Every time he appears, we’re going to be here.”
Singh had no comment for reporters when he was transferred between jail and the courthouse for his Monday hearing. His next hearing is scheduled for June 6.