Husband Says NYPD Wrecked Case Against Driver Charged for Wife’s Death

Last week we reported how the botched NYPD investigation into the death of Brooklyn cyclist Stefanos Tsigrimanis was initially compromised due to a department policy that keeps the Accident Investigation Squad from working cases unless the victim is believed likely to die. When an emergency room doctor told police that Tsigrimanis was not fatally injured, AIS called off its investigation, and did not return to the scene for 46 days.

Clara Heyworth. Photo via Gothamist

Like Rasha Shamoon, Tsigrimanis was found culpable based on the word of the driver who killed him. His case also resembles that of Clara Heyworth, a pedestrian fatally struck by a driver who stands to benefit from NYPD’s slipshod crash investigation protocols, including the “likely to die” rule.

At approximately 1:50 a.m. on Sunday, July 10, 2011, Heyworth, a 28-year-old who worked as marketing director for the publishing house Verso Books, was hit as she crossed Vanderbilt Avenue in Fort Greene. She died from her injuries the following day.

Driver Anthony Webb, 43, was charged with a raft of violations, including operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, operation of a motor vehicle by an unlicensed driver, reckless driving, reckless endangerment, and a top charge of assault. But Heyworth’s husband Jacob Stevens, who witnessed the crash, told Gothamist in February that Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes won’t be following through with criminal charges against Webb.

To begin with, prosecutors told Stevens that Webb’s breath test results are probably not admissible in court because the 88th Precinct had not performed a required calibration of the machine for four years. More important is that AIS did not go to the scene until at least three days after the crash, and only then after Stevens informed the Brooklyn DA’s office that his wife had died. Said Stevens:

AIS sent someone Sunday morning pretty soon after the accident. I don’t know who they spoke with, but AIS claims they were told she was not likely to die. If they had gone back to the hospital Sunday afternoon, they would have been told she was basically dead. So they did not monitor the situation at all. So in their view it was the 88th Precinct’s problem, because she was not likely to die.

As far as I know, the 88th Precinct didn’t return to the scene, or investigate any further. On Wednesday, an assistant DA called me and I told him Clara had died, and he then notified AIS that it was a fatal accident. I don’t know exactly when AIS went to the scene, but when they did finally go there, the skid marks were gone, and when they checked the cameras, the one camera that might have caught the driver and all the impact had been wiped clean after several days. They got there too late to recover vital physical evidence.

Since Stevens has no memory of seeing the collision, and NYPD did not investigate during the immediate aftermath, prosecutors told Stevens they will not take the case to trial.

Webb’s next court date is March 13. While Hynes’s office told Streetsblog that all charges are still on the table, according to Stevens, Webb will be charged only for driving without a license and an insurance violation. Said Stevens: “I don’t think the judge who sits in this traffic court is going to know that anyone died at all.”