A 21-year-old man from North Jersey was sentenced to five years in state prison for causing the death of a friend while driving impaired and crashing his vehicle in late 2019 on the New Jersey Turnpike in Mansfield Township, Burlington County.

Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina says Johnalex Grullon on Union City pled guilty last month to vehicular homicide (second degree) and assault by auto (third degree) in exchange for the five-year term.

Grullon admitted in court that he had been smoking marijuana in the car prior to the crash as well as driving in a reckless manner. He did not refute a toxicology report that said he had marijuana in his system at the time of the crash that was at a level unfit to safely drive a car.

In a statement, Coffina said, "As marijuana becomes legal in New Jersey, we urge our residents to view this case as a cautionary tale about the dangers of driving while high. Even if using marijuana has been decriminalized, driving while impaired has not, and doing so can lead to preventable tragedies like the death of Mohamedam Elbezaz here, and the serious consequences that this defendant now must face. Our hearts go out to the family of Mr. Elbezaz."

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Authorities say in October, 2019, Grullon had two passengers in his Honda Accord when his car veered off of the Turnpike, struck a guardrail along the shoulder, and spun across all lanes before hitting the concrete median and re-entering traffic when he collided with another car.

Grullon and the other occupants were not wearing seatbelts and were ejected from the vehicle. 21-year-old Mohamedam Elbezaz, the rear-seat passenger, was pronounced dead at the scene.

An investigation revealed that Grullon and his friends were returning from a trip to South Philadelphia where they had traveled to get cheesesteaks.

As part of the plea agreement, Grullon must pay nearly $13,000 in restitution to Elbezaz’s family for funeral and other expenses.

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