By Philip Newman
A Kew Gardens man who first claimed his girlfriend had been shot in a home invasion but later admitted he accidentally shot her in the head, leaving her helpless for life, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for criminal possession of a weapon and other charges, the Queens DA said.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said Steven Diaz, 33, of 127th Street in Kew Gardens had been held in jail since his arrest in February 2014 on $2 million bond. He was convicted last month of criminal possession of a weapon, criminal possession of marijuana and tampering with evidence.
Acting Queens Supreme Court Justice John Latella pronounced the sentence Oct 13.
Brown said that according to trial testimony, between 4:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. on Feb. 9, 2014 the victim, Amanda Rivera, was shot in the head with a 9mm handgun in the couple’s apartmemt.
Diaz took Rivera to a hospital and told responding police that he was a drug dealer and that three masked robbers attempted to steal his stash of marijuana, the DA said. Brown said Diaz claimed one of the masked gunmen shot Rivera.
According to trial records, Diaz later admitted that he accidentally fired the shot that struck Rivera and that on the way to the hospital he tossed the weapon into the sewer. A search for the pistol was unsuccessful, but when police searched the defendant’s apartment, they found more than 50 pounds of marijuana.
Rivera , 25, lives in a nursing home with permanent brain damage and cannot speak or in any way communicate.
Diaz’s first trial ended in a mistrial in March 2016 during deliberations when a juror became unavailable due to a personal matter.
“The lengthy prison sentence imposed by the court punishes the defendant for the crimes that he committed,” Brown said. “Justice has been done.”