A Florida woman fatally struck a federal judge from New York and seriously injured a six-year-old boy when she swerved her car on to a sidewalk, officials said. Police said the woman said she believed she was Harry Potter. They also said they found a powerful synthetic drug in her bag.
Nastasia Snape, 23, was charged with vehicular homicide and other felonies for the crash that killed Sandra Feuerstein, 75, a district judge in the eastern district of New York since 2003, on Friday. The boy, Anthony Ovchinnikov, was taken to hospital. His condition could not be determined.
According to court records, witnesses told Boca Raton police Snape drove erratically on a busy road before driving on to the sidewalk and striking Feuerstein. Snape then drove back on to the road before hitting the boy on a crosswalk.
Police said Snape fled to Delray Beach, where she crashed. A Delray officer said Snape appeared to be having convulsions, stared into space and would only say she was OK.
Police said that in the ambulance, Snape began screaming and fighting with medics while yelling she was Harry Potter. The medics sedated her. Police said they found in her purse a synthetic drug commonly known as “bath salts”, which can cause psychotic episodes.
Snape remained jailed on Sunday on $60,000 bond. The Palm Beach county public defender’s office has a policy of not speaking about its cases.
Feuerstein was appointed to the federal bench by President George W Bush after 16 years as a New York state judge. The eastern district covers Long Island, including Brooklyn and Queens, and Staten Island.
Feuerstein had been presiding over the case of a former New York police officer, Valerie Cincinelli, who is accused of paying a lover to kill her husband and had been expected to plead guilty. It was unclear how Feuerstein’s death would affect the case.
Feuerstein and her mother, Annette Elstein, are believed to be the first mother-daughter duo to be judges.
In a statement, Eugene Corcoran, the eastern district’s executive, said Feuerstein’s “eccentric style and warm personality lit up the courtroom. She will be missed by her colleagues and litigants alike”.
Feuerstein was born in New York in 1946 and worked as a teacher before earning a law degree from the Benjamin N Cardozo School of Law in 1979.
“She viewed a judge’s role as interpreting and not creating law,” Joshua Glick, who clerked for Feuerstein, told Newsday. “She was focused on writing clear and concise opinions that were easily understood. She was occasionally tough on litigants who she felt were not being fully candid with her, but she was always fair.”