Second conviction for fatal 2017 car race that killed Manhasset man

Second conviction for fatal 2017 car race that killed Manhasset man
Jonnathan Santos, left, 22, of Manhasset, and Areefeen Hirji, 21, of Muttontown have now both been convicted in relation to a 2017 car race and now await sentencing. (Photos courtesy Nassau County District Attorney)

A man was convicted Wednesday of manslaughter for his involvement in a 2017 car race with a Manhasset man whose passenger, also from Manhasset, was ejected from the car and died, said Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas.

Areefeen Hirji, 21, of Muttontown, was convicted of two felonies and three misdemeanors after a week and a half long trial. He faces up to 22 years in prison, according to the district attorney’s office.

Jonnathan Santos, 22, of Manhasset, who raced Hirji, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs on Oct. 9.

Santos is expected to receive a three- to nine-year prison sentence on Jan. 15. Hirji’s sentencing is Jan. 17.

“Everything about this crash is a tragedy from the young life lost to the young defendants convicted of their crimes,” Singas said.

Santos and Hirji were racing eastbound on the Long Island Expressway Feb. 23, 2017 approximately 11:48 p.m., according to the district attorney’s office. Prosecutors said the two cars, a 2015 BMW and a 2017 Honda Accord, crashed at Exit 44 when they were both traveling at more than 120 mph.

The BMW, which Santos was driving, spun and hit a guardrail and pickup truck, according to the attorney’s office.

One passenger, Gianfranco Peralta, 19, was ejected and died at the scene. The two others were treated for minor injuries.

Santos was arrested at the scene, prosecutors said, and Hirji fled.

Hirji went to the 2nd Precinct two days later and said that he was not the driver, according to the district attorney’s office. On Feb. 25. 2017, he admitted to being the driver and was arrested.

On Wednesday he was convicted of second-degree manslaughter, leaving the scene without reporting, reckless endangerment, making a punishable false written statement and reckless driving.

“This defendant not only raced and collided with the other car, but he also fled and later tried to bully eyewitnesses into pinning the blame on another person,” Singas said. “This verdict sends a strong message that drivers who turn our roadways into racetracks will not be tolerated in Nassau County.”

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