A Long Island woman locked up on Rikers Island for two years and counting is contesting her $1.25 million bail — saying it is higher than what others with similar charges face because she allegedly killed a NYPD officer.
Jessica Beauvais, 34, wants a judge to reduce the seven-figure bail, according to her appeal filed last month.
The Hempstead woman is charged with fatally striking Anastasios Tsakos as he directed traffic away from a fatal April 27, 2021, crash on the Long Island Expressway on April 27, 2021 at approximately 12:30 a.m.
Prosecutors say she was drunk and driving her 2013 Volkswagen Passat with a suspended license when she struck Tsakos so violently that he landed in a nearby patch of grass.
Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz’s office also says Beauvais tried to race off after the crash — a contention Beauvais denies.
Beauvais, the single mother of a 15-year-old son, was jailed without bail immediately after her arrest. But she successfully appealed and the $1.25 million bail was set in December 2021.
Beauvais, who worked as a phlebotomist, contends she doesn’t have the means to pay it — and that the punishment is stiffer because the victim was a cop.
“I don’t want to be railroaded because of who the person was, and that’s what this feels like,” Beauvais told THE CITY during a jailhouse phone interview. “What they are doing isn’t right.”
Her lawyers want her bail dropped to $300,000 or lower, coupled, if necessary, with electronic monitoring.
Frank Sobrino, a spokesperson for the Queens district attorney, declined to comment, citing the “active case.”
Serving Time Without A Trial
Supporters say the Beauvais appeal highlights how some people can remain incarcerated for years prior to going on trial, despite a 2019 legislative change to pare back the use of bail for misdemeanors and some violent felonies.
They note that Beauvais had no prior criminal history and has family in the area — the usual markers for assessing if someone is a flight risk.
According to New York state law, bail can typically only be used to ensure that a defendant returns to court. Judges cannot consider locking people up based on how much they think that person is a danger to the public.
The law also requires that judges take into consideration the accused person’s ability to pay the bail without imposing an undue hardship.
“When a court fails to comply with that requirement, it is impossible to determine whether bail is achieving its legitimate purpose — ensuring return to court — or merely punishing the accused for his poverty,” her appeal said.
Criminal justice reformers accuse prosecutors of using high bail to coax defendants into pleading guilty as a way of avoiding multiple trips to between Rikers and city courthouses — a draining process known as “bullpen therapy” that refers to court pens where they wait for hours before seeing a judge.
But the city’s largest police union wants Beauvais to remain locked up because of her alleged choice to drive while drunk and high.
“There is zero reason to believe that someone who made these horrible choices would stick around to face the justice she deserves,” said Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Hendry, noting that prosecutors contend she tried to drive off after the fatal collision.
Beauvais’s appeal argues that never happened.
‘My First Accident’
The Queens DA says Beauvais did not stop or slow down after striking Tsakos, a 43-year-old father of two who was posthumously promoted to detective.
She drove past “several exits” before taking an off-ramp to the Horace Harding Expressway, according to prosecutors. She then drove the car over a curb and onto a sidewalk, the criminal complaint alleges.
When police surrounded her car, she allegedly put the vehicle in reverse and rammed the police car behind her.
Her appeal notes that the first exit on the highway was closed due to an accident.
“The next available exit — Exit 29 — was where Ms. Beauvais exited the highway before safely stopping her car,” the appeal said.
Police surveillance video from that night does not show that she tried to drive off once officers surrounded her car, the legal filing said. Instead, it shows her listening to orders from officers and exiting the vehicle, according to the bail appeal.
“The video entered into evidence does not depict a belligerent woman yelling at officers, but rather, it shows a woman increasingly in distress, struggling to understand what is going on,” the court document said.
While under arrest, she asked to call her son and appeared confused, the appeal said.
She also bemoaned that her alleged victim was an NYPD officer, according to prosecutors.
“Why did my first accident have to be a cop?” she asked right after her arrest, according to the criminal complaint. “Not that I wanted it to be someone else but … I have been driving since I was 16 and haven’t hit as much as a pothole.”
Beauvais’s trial is set for the fall. Her lawyer declined to comment.
Tsakos was a 13-year NYPD veteran whose children were 3 and 6 years old at the time of his death.
“This is a very, very painful moment,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters shortly after his death, noting his children “will never see their father again because somebody did the wrong thing.”