The hit-and-run driver charged in the death of a popular NYC radio personality has accepted a plea deal that will allow him to avoid any time in prison
On Tuesday, Kevin Ozoria pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of the crash that killed Jean Paul Guerrero—known to listeners of La Mega 97.9 as DJ Jinx Paul—outside an East New York club in 2016. Under the terms of the deal, Ozoria is expected to receive five years of probation, 100 hours of community service, and a felony conviction. He will not spend a day in jail, nor will he face any sort of ban on getting behind the wheel of a vehicle in the future.
The victim's father reportedly wept upon learning of the plea, telling the Daily News outside the courtroom: "Sadly, the justice isn’t so good here." Guerrero's cousin, also frustrated with the deal, noted that the motorist "left and didn’t even call a cop, didn’t even call an ambulance."
The deal brings an end to the winding, heavily-scrutinized prosecution of the man who fatally struck the 39-year-old Guerrero and drove off. Throughout the case, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez faced accusations of being overly generous to the motorist: initially because he didn't charge Ozoria with the actual killing of Guerrero, then for offering a plea deal that would have meant between 16 months to four years of prison time. The maximum sentence for leaving the scene of an accident that causes a death is seven years in prison.
In the end, Ozoria agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a greatly reduced sentence, which prosecutors attributed to a lack of evidence.
The DA's office maintains that the facts of the case made it difficult to bring more serious charges against Ozoria. "This was a challenging case with multiple witnesses who refused to cooperate, but I was committed to working with his family and getting justice for Mr. Guerrero," the district attorney said in a statement.
The 27-year-old Ozoria turned himself in within a week of the crash, after an employee of an auto body shop who had seen news reports of the hit-and-run called the cops to say that he'd fixed a similar car with a broken windshield. But the driver was not indicted until more than a year later, due in part to conflicting evidence at the scene. Sources in the DA's office said that a witness had seen a woman exit the driver's side door after the collision, and family members of Ozoria maintained that he had only confessed in order to protect his girlfriend.
Ozorio was also initially charged with evidence tampering, as the windshield was believed to have been damaged by the impact of the car striking Guerrero's body. He did not plead guilty to that charge. His sentencing is set for May 1st.
"I extend my sincere condolences to his family and friends, who remained dedicated to getting justice," Gonzalez said. "And I hope they find some small solace in today's guilty plea to the top count, a felony."