New York Offenders

2 Teenagers Are Sentenced for Killing Man Asleep in His Car

Uli Seit for The New York Times

Chris Levy, left, received a sentence of 22 years and Cory Azor received a sentence of 20 years for killing a Queens man.

March 2, 2012

Two teenagers convicted of killing a Queens man whom they overpowered as he slept in his Lexus were sentenced on Wednesday to prison terms of at least 20 years each.

The victim, David Kao, 49, was a marketing executive of The World Journal, which describes itself as the largest Chinese-language newspaper in North America. Mr. Kao was strangled inside his Lexus S.U.V., and his body was later dumped on a dead-end street after the teenagers spotted him asleep after they spent a Friday evening at the movies.

Before the defendants, Chris Levy, 19, and Cory Azor, 18, were sentenced, they stood as Mr. Kao’s niece, Christine Chu, recounted her uncle’s life in a victim-impact statement read in State Supreme Court in Queens.

“The thought of writing this impact statement made me sick to my stomach, because how can you describe the impact of losing my uncle?” Ms. Chu, 29, said as she fought back tears. She said Mr. Kao had raised her after her father died, and he “was always just a phone call away when I needed him.”

Ms. Chu, a city schoolteacher, described her uncle as a respected leader in the Chinese-American community. “It’s rare he walked down a street in Chinatown and Flushing without a million people stopping him to speak,” she said as the two handcuffed defendants stood silently, looking straight ahead, as their relatives sobbed.

Mr. Levy and Mr. Azor had been charged with murder, but pleaded guilty to manslaughter and robbery.

Mr. Azor insisted in court that the crime, in which the victim’s credit cards, cash, cellphone and car were stolen, was a botched robbery and was never intended to be a killing. He received 20 years in prison.

Mr. Levy, who admitted breaking into the Lexus and dragging Mr. Kao from behind the wheel and into the back seat while he and Mr. Azor choked him, was sentenced to 22 years in prison.

A third defendant, Keron Wiltshire, 19, is expected to receive a five-year sentence later this month for driving the Lexus after Mr. Kao was killed. A fourth teenager, Jay-Quel Merkerson, still faces trial on murder and robbery charges.

The plea agreements included concurrent five-year prison terms for another crime in May 2009, in which Mr. Levy, Mr. Azor and Mr. Wiltshire robbed another man, Jin Ton Yuan, 42, in Flushing.

When offered a chance to speak after Ms. Chu’s statement, Mr. Levy turned and, appearing to smirk, briefly faced the Kao family. “I apologize to the family,” he said. “Thanks to my family for standing by my side.”

Mr. Azor spoke more extensively. Facing Ms. Chu and her mother, Hsiao Chu, the victim’s sister, he said, “After hearing the speech, there is nothing I can say to take up for the loss or take away the pain of the family.”

Mr. Levy’s lawyer, Robert Weinstein, in a bid for a more lenient sentence, told Justice Gregory L. Lasak that no weapon was discovered and that “Mr. Chu was severely intoxicated.”

“Don’t go any further,” Judge Lasak said, suggesting that Mr. Weinstein might like to withdraw Mr. Levy’s guilty plea and go to trial. Mr. Weinstein declined the offer.