Plea deal rejected; Groton manslaughter case could be headed to trial

ITHACA, N.Y. – A plea deal was rejected Friday afternoon by a man who was allegedly speeding and high while driving, causing the death of a teen during a rollover crash in August.

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Naeem Clark is charged with felony second-degree manslaughter and felony second-degree vehicular manslaughter. Court records show that early on Aug. 16, Clark was driving a vehicle that left the roadway and rolled over several times on Cortland/McLean Road, causing the death of Brianna D. Copes, 18.

"This is a tragedy any way you look at it," Judge John Rowley said in a courtroom where about 20 people showed up to hear the possible plea acceptance.

The deal he rejected Friday would have required him to plead guilty to felony second-degree vehicular manslaughter with a recommended sentence of two to six years in prison. The maximum sentence is two-and-one-third to seven years.

Despite previously signing the plea, Clark and his attorney Seth Peacock opted to reject the plea in court.

Assistant District Attorney Eliza Filipowski said that among evidence she had for the case was a crash reconstruction that shows Clark was driving 70 - 81 mph in a 55 mph zone. Blood tests also showed that he had recently smoked marijuana when the crash happened.

"The vehicle crashed. She died almost instantly," Filipowski said.

The case is tentatively set to go to trial in June.

See related coverage:

Records: Teen was speeding, high on marijuana during fatal crash that killed McGraw woman

Driver faces manslaughter charges for fatal Groton accident

Family of McGraw teen killed in crash raising money for funeral expenses

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