2nd trial in death of New York anti-gang activist ends in mistrial

CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (AP) — The second trial of a New York woman accused of causing the death of an anti-gang activist in a dispute over a memorial honoring the activist’s slain daughter has ended in a mistrial after jurors failed to reach a verdict on the top count of criminally negligent homicide.

Jurors on Long Island deadlocked Monday after four days of deliberations in the case of Annmarie Drago, accused of fatally running over Evelyn Rodriguez in 2018. Drago was found guilty of one misdemeanor count of petit larceny for stealing a bouquet and other items from the memorial that Rodriguez had set up to honor her teenage daughter, Kayla Cuevas.

Newsday reported that neither Drago not defense attorney Matthew Hereth commented after the mistrial was declared Monday in a courtroom in Suffolk County.

Drago was convicted in Rodriguez's death in 2020, but the conviction was overturned last year and the judge ordered a new trial, citing prosecutorial misconduct.

Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney said after the second trial ended Monday with no verdict on the homicide charge that he is prepared to retry the case yet again.

In September 2018, Rodriguez had set up the memorial in front of Drago’s mother’s house ahead of a vigil to mark the two-year anniversary of the discovery of 16-year-old Kayla's body at the property.

Drago, who was trying the sell the house, had dismantled the memorial because she didn’t want to scare off buyers. That led to a confrontation between the two women.

Prosecutors said Drago caused Rodriguez’s death when she drove over her with her SUV. The defense argued that a step Rodriguez took to the left just as Drago accelerated caused her foot to get stuck under the front driver’s-side tire.

Rodriguez had become a symbol in the fight against gang violence after Kayla was hacked and beaten to death along with a friend in 2016. Authorities believe the girls were victims of the MS-13 gang.