Brooklyn DA Secures Rare Manslaughter Conviction for Pedestrian Death

In a rare case of an apparently sober motorist facing serious penalties for a fatal crash, an unlicensed hit-and-run driver who killed one Brooklyn pedestrian and seriously injured another pled guilty to manslaughter this week.

Adam Recio pled guilty to manslaughter for the death of Raul De La Cruz (pictured). Possible sentences range from probation to 15 years in prison.

Raul De La Cruz and an unidentified woman were crossing Borinquen Place near Keap Street in Williamsburg at around 5 a.m. on November 15, 2012, when Adam Recio hit them with a Chevrolet Malibu, according to published reports. The victims were thrown into another lane of traffic and were hit by a second driver.

From the Daily News:

They had gotten halfway [across Borinquen Place] and were waiting in the striped area between the yellow lines in the center when the eastbound Chevy, which was trying to pass another vehicle, slammed into them, police said.

“In 30 years of driving I’ve never seen anything like this,” said truck driver Miguel Bocourt, 57. “The guy was going so fast. He was like a bat out of hell.”

De La Cruz “went flying up in the air,” said Bocourt.

De La Cruz, a beloved local figure and 35-year-old father of two young girls, died at the scene. The second victim, then 24, was hospitalized with serious injuries.

With a mangled hood and half the windshield gone, the Malibu was found abandoned five blocks away. Police later arrested Recio, then 27. The driver of the second vehicle was not charged.

Recio was charged by former Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes with manslaughter, homicide, assault, reckless endangerment, leaving the scene, reckless driving, and driving without a license. According to court records, on Monday Recio pled guilty to manslaughter, a class C felony with possible sentences ranging from probation to 15 years in prison.

Excepting cases in which the killer was fleeing police or was known to the victim, only two other times in recent memory have NYC district attorneys charged a motorist with manslaughter for the death of a pedestrian or cyclist without also filing a DWI or DWAI charge. (Though also rare, the more common charge is criminally negligent homicide, a class E felony — the lowest level felony category.) Drivers who killed pedestrians Alberto Serrano and Margaret Fisher, in Brooklyn and Manhattan, respectively, were also charged with leaving the scene. Fisher’s killer pled guilty and, like Recio, faced up to 15 years in jail, but according to reports, prosecutors with DA Cy Vance’s office asked the judge for a three-year maximum, with the possibility of as little as six months’ jail time. The outcome of Serrano’s case is not known.

Unlike states where specific charges are prescribed for vehicular crimes, New York traffic law is highly subjective, and convictions usually depend on a prosecutor’s ability to convince a jury of a motorists’s state of mind. The probability of a serious charge after a fatal crash seems to increase when the driver’s actions are especially brazen. Recio was an unlicensed driver who caused a horrifically violent crash and left two people to die. Whether or not it was a factor, the Daily News reported that, according to police, he had prior arrests for other alleged criminal offenses.

In January, Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson, who unseated Hynes in last year’s election, charged a driver with manslaughter for the death of a second driver in a crash that apparently did not involve alcohol. Motorists have killed at least 13 pedestrians and cyclists in Brooklyn since Thompson took office. Three of those crashes were hit-and-runs in which the driver was not immediately caught or identified. No criminal charges are known to have been filed in any of the 13 cases.

Thompson’s office declined comment on this case. Recio is scheduled to be sentenced on June 11.