An arrest in the death of NYPD officer Anastasio Tsakos could raise some challenging evidentiary questions in the trial of Jessica Beauvais, 32. Before Beauvais ran over Tsakos, she posted a podcast that not only showed her drinking but signing off with “F**K Police.” The admissibility of that podcast evidence is likely to be the subject of a motion by the defense before any trial.
Tsakos was directing traffic away from a fatal accident on a freeway in Queens around 2 a.m. when he was hit by a 2013 Volkswagen. The driver fled the scene and Tsakos later died. When she was arrested, Beauvais’ blood alcohol level was 0.159%, way above the legal limit of 0.08%. There are also reports that she fought with police when being put into custody.
According to media reports, she jumped a curb and then put her car in reverse and rammed a police car twice. After they had her in custody, she is captured on body-worn camera saying “What did I do?” Court documents also quote her as saying
“I smoke weed regularly. I drank two glasses of wine earlier today and then dropped my son off in Hempstead. I smoked a joint last night before my podcast that I did in Brooklyn; the podcast was from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. I brought the bottle of wine I had with me to the podcast. I had two shots of 1800 patron tequila. When I left, I didn’t know where I was going so I used my GPS. I made a left turn and a right turn and ended up at a gas station where the cops stopped me. I don’t know why they stopped me, speeding I guess. I did hear a thump, so I knew I hit something but I didn’t see what it was.”
Beauvais appeared to confess to running over Tsakos as she was led away in handcuffs. She told reporters “I am sorry that I hit him and that he’s dead. I didn’t mean to. I’m sorry!” When asked about what she would say to his family, including his 6-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son, Tsakos said “I didn’t mean to, I’m sorry. I was coming from the studio. I do a podcast.”
That podcast — and that statement — are likely to feature greatly in any trial. The admission may avoid an evidentiary fight by prompting a plea agreement. However, if she goes to a trial, the defense is likely to argue that the podcast’s evidentiary value is outweighed by its prejudicial impact.
In the podcast, Beauvais is seen smoking and reportedly taking shots of Vodka while playing N.W.A.’s “F**k tha Police.” The accident occurred some time later but the consumption of the alcohol would be admissible if the time frame is close enough. The Daily Mail reported that the podcast on Facebook Live occurred just hours before the fatal crash.
It is the anti-police rhetoric that would be more challenging. I would argue that this was protected political speech and that its admission would be highly prejudicial in such a case. There is no evidence that this was an intentional act.
Beauvais was voicing her anger over the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in which he was convicted in the death of George Floyd. Lines like the following would likely inflame the jury: “We can fight the police too. If you’re going to shoot me, get it over with. What I’m saying you’re not going to try me while I’m still breathing. Like N.W.A say about the police—if you’re going to kill me, at least I get to take someone with me. I’m one of those people. If I’m going to go, someone is coming.”
She also declared:
“Why do you need a weapon to do your job,” she asks. “If you were afraid for your life, go be a secretary at Walmart. Do us all the favor. Go open up a daycare. But please stop hitting us with the (expletive) excuse that you felt threatened about something…
I don’t like barriers. That’s why I don’t like working. And I don’t like rules…
We are not afraid of the police. Like those songs, fuck the police. We want you to know that we have no idea about you, your mother, your children, your wife. You are nobody. You are not for us: insecticides, cockroaches, infestations.
They love cockroaches. Nobody asks about you. It’s just boring to watch. Good, bad or indifferent. Honestly.”
There is ample evidence against Beauvais and, in addition to her admission, she was driving on a suspended driver’s license at the time of the crash, police said. According to media reports, her license has been suspended 14 times and she has been cited for multiple driving violations. Her charges include two counts of vehicular manslaughter and DWI. She faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Once again, the expectation is that her admissions will leave only a plea as a viable option. In such a case, the full record, including the podcast, is likely to be before a judge during sentencing though the court will often follow the recommendations of prosecutors in a plea agreement.